By Andrew Redmond Barr
The Post Office is currently bidding for a contract of 10 years with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
It is believed by postmasters that the contract will generate an income of £60 million for the Post Office, a figure which has prompted 500,000 people from across the UK to sign a petition in favour of the move.
Without the deal from the DVLA thousands of post offices would “struggle to survive”, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters said last month.
The Coalition said they wanted post offices to become the “front office of government”, a proposal which has gained cross-party support.
Scottish National Party Westminster Postal Affairs spokesperson, Mike Weir, raised the subject today during parliamentary questions.
Mr Weir said: “The UK government are very good at claiming they want post offices to be the ‘front office of government’ but they are doing very little to bring that about. The award of the DVLA contract is a key test of this commitment.
“Despite coalition promises, there has been a steady paring of business, with the Department for Work and Pensions, for example, having awarded important contracts to other providers.
“I am very concerned that if the DVLA contract is lost it will have a very serious impact on the future of local post offices. This contract is a key test of commitment of the UK Government to deliver on their promise to assist the post office network.
“We are already in the position where many post offices cannot provide the existing DVLA service. In my constituency, the post office in the largest town of Arbroath has to advise people to travel to Forfar or Dundee to renew a photograph driving license. This diminution of services is likely to worsen as they downgrade post offices under the changes to the post office local branch system.
“It’s imperative that the government and post office look seriously at the ability to deliver these essential services. Failure to do so could lead to a further spiral of decline and undermine the viability of vital post office services, cutting back crucial provisions in communities across Scotland.”
Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Post Offices, Russell Brown, claimed to have received over 200 campaign postcards in a single day in favour of the proposals.
“If the Government goes ahead and awards the DVLA contract to another provider, then it will be another nail in the coffin for Post Offices. It will mean people can no longer go to certain local Post Offices to get their driving license form checked or their tax disc renewed. The phenomenal response from local people to this campaign to maintain these services shows how valuable the Post Office network is within communities.”
A decision on the matter in expected in October this year.