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7 December 2006

Stevenson Defends Local Post Offices In Parliament

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson strongly defended rural Post Offices in Banff & Buchan from the threat of closure.

Mr Stevenson highlighted the investment made in Maud Post Office by local businessman Mark Kindness as evidence that rural Post Offices can have a bright future, but only if they get the support they need from central Government.

Post Offices have recently suffered a number of blows with the loss of the TV licensing renewal business and Government plans to phase out Post Office Card Accounts for pensions and benefits.

Speaking during the debate, he said:

“Rural communities are at the heart of the debate. I have the privilege of representing one of the three Parliamentary constituencies in Aberdeenshire, where some 57 per cent of people live in a rural setting, which is the highest rate of any mainland council area in Scotland. My constituency is more rural than the Highland Council area, by 2 per cent. The debate therefore reflects absolutely the concerns of my constituents.

“We have vibrant local communities. There are 32 community council areas in my constituency and communities in my constituency have won the Calor Scottish community of the year award twice in the past five years. There is a huge sense of community in the area. The first place to win the award was Whitehills. During my annual summer surgery tour, I dropped in on the local post office at Whitehills to talk to Annette Addison, who is the postmistress there. In a community of 1,000, she gathered 900 signatures in an attempt to save the Post Office card account, which graphically indicates the value that the community of Whitehills places on the post office and the services that it delivers.

“That happened when post offices had just lost the business of TV Licensing. It is worth putting that in context: in my constituency there are 42 local post offices, but Paypoint plc has only 28 terminals—a significant numerical difference. The situation is worse than members might think: only 10 of the Paypoint terminals are located outside towns that have a population of more than 10,000. The loss of TV Licensing has led to a dramatic drop in the service that is provided to our communities.

“In New Deer—a community of just 500 people, which won the Calor Scottish community of the year award this year—an energetic local businessman, Mark Kindness, employs 60 people in a bakery. He has bought and invested in the post office in the adjacent village of Maud. He has done that because he sees the value of community, which is vital throughout Scotland. My constituency is a net contributor to the economy and the post offices are part of the infrastructure that makes our economy and sense of community work. To deprive communities of their post offices is like shutting down the railways in London, which are supported by the public purse as part of community infrastructure—a role which our equally vital post offices also have.”

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