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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD MEETS WITH 'POST BANK COALITION'

Friday, 6 August 2010

SNP DEMAND ANSWERS ON ROYAL MAIL PRIVATISATION PLANS

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has met with the 'Post Bank Coalition' for talks in Westminster. The Post Bank Coalition is calling for a publicly-owned bank to be set up, based on the Post Office network to provide socially useful local banking to communities and small businesses across the country and secure a sustainable future for the Post Office.

The Post Bank Coalition is formed from a broad range of organisations including the Communication Workers Union, the Countryside Alliance, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the National Pensioners Convention.

Commenting after the meeting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"This was a very useful discussion with the Post Bank Coalition. It is clear following the decade of decline in the number of Post Offices and the number of services which can be accessed at Post Offices that the status quo is not an option.

"Individual sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses should be given the freedom to run an innovative service that is tailored to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

"The Post Bank is an exciting initiative as it offers to replace the services which have been lost over the past 10 to 20 years from our rural communities by the withdrawal of the high street banks. I hope that Ministers in the UK Government will show the same level of support for the Post Office that the Scottish Government has shown."


Meanwhile, Dr Whiteford, along with SNP colleagues, is calling on the UK Government to “come clean” over plans for privatisation of Royal Mail after a parliamentary answer received by the SNP raised further questions about the government’s plan.

The MP, who has long campaigned on Royal Mail and Post Office issues, is extremely concerned that privatisation would mean profit at the expense of service in rural areas like Buchan and Banffshire, where the Universal Service model currently operated by Royal Mail gives a consistency of price and service that is vital in sustaining rural business and jobs.

Residents across Banff & Buchan have also regularly backed campaigns on postal service issues, whether that has been against Post Office closures or to protect Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation.

The Government has previously commented that they were looking at a “John Lewis” solution, which would be a partnership sharing profits, however in a response to the SNP the Postal Affairs Minister, Ed Davey, confirmed that the UK Government were looking at “an injection of private capital into Royal Mail, including opportunities for employee ownership.”

However, Eilidh Whiteford says that this is nothing like the John Lewis partnership model which shares profits amongst the partners.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Talk about the John Lewis model is simply as a smokescreen for privatisation of Royal Mail. It is clear that the Tories and Liberals are seeking to privatise the business and offer workers a small amount of shares to give the impression of employee participation rather than complete employee or continued public ownership.

“This is a slippery slope that will damage Royal Mail and the important services it provides to areas like rural Banff & Buchan.

“Constituents regularly tell me of the importance of the postal services they receive and any reduction in service would make doing business in the countryside much more difficult.

“In the modern era rural areas are benefiting from Internet connections and communications technology that let them operate effectively in areas like Buchan and rural Banffshire but that could all be undone if businesses can’t easily supply their customers through Royal Mail.

“The UK government need to come clean – this is nothing more than the same old privatisations operated by the Thatcher administrations. When the utility companies were privatised customers were offered shares, but the reality now is that all but two of the companies have been taken over by major foreign energy giants.

“If the UK government are allowed to go down this route it is only a matter of time before the company comes wholly under private control. Such an outcome would be a disaster and inevitably lead to strong pressure for relaxation or abolition of the universal service obligation.

“Royal Mail cannot be regarded as simply another company. It contains a vital social element that must be protected.”

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