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  MP warns of post office closures if card account is axed  


Richard opened the Surlingham sub-post office in 2002
Richard Bacon MP has written to
Work and Pensions Minister John
Hutton with the comments
received from local sub-
postmasters and residents

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has written to Work and Pensions Minister John Hutton with comments received from local sub-postmasters and residents on the proposed withdrawal of the Post Office Card Account.

Of the 40 sub-post offices in South Norfolk, nearly half of them have more than 50 customers using a card account each week. Many of them serve up to 300 card customers each week. In some cases this represents over 90% of the people using the sub-post office.

 


Mr Bacon said: “The overwhelming response from sub-postmasters is that the withdrawal of the card account would have a devastating effect on their business and, in many cases, could result in the eventual closure of sub-post offices in rural areas. This would mean that some villages could lose their only remaining shop and, as one sub-postmaster put it: ‘a village shop with a post office is essential to the viability and vibrancy of village life’”.

The card account was introduced in April 2003 to replace benefit books for pensioners and benefits claimants. At that time, some sub-postmasters noticed a drop of over 50% in cash withdrawals by pensioners and benefit claimants. One sub-post office has seen pension and benefit payments drop from 600 a week then to only 150 payments a week now.

Currently more than 4 million people receive benefits through a card account and the scheme is worth around 1 billion to the post office network. The card account scheme is to be axed by 2010. In future, new claimants and existing customers will have to use a bank or building society instead.

Mr Bacon said: “The card account is simple to use and is ideal for many pensioners and benefit claimants as it does not incur any fees. Also, due to a lack of regular public transport, pensioners and claimants living in rural areas find travelling to a bank or building society difficult and costly”.

Based on the survey people living in South Norfolk villages already have to travel between one and 10 miles to reach a bank or building society. For those who have no transport of their own, collecting benefits and pensions could involve a weekly two to three hour round trip in all weathers.

The National Federation of Sub-postmasters has recently launched a petition calling on the government to reverse its decision to end support for the Post Office Card Account.

Mr Bacon said: “I am forwarding the views of sub-postmasters and residents of South Norfolk who have written to me about the card account to the Minister for Work and Pensions. I have already added my name to the Early Day Motion condemning the abolition of the card account”.
 

6 March 2006