Labour MP Gerrard accused of hypocrisy over Post Offices

Local Lib Dems campaign against the Labour government's Post Office closure programmeLabour MP for Walthamstow, Neil Gerrard, has been accused of hypocrisy after he signed a Parliamentary motion supporting Post Offices only to then vote against it in the House of Commons.

Post Offices face a bleak future if the Government gives another company the contract to pay out pensions and benefits instead of the Post Office. They currently deliver this through the Post Office Card Account (POCA), which is used by around 4 million elderly and benefit claimants.

It is believed that up to 6,000 Post Offices could close if the POCA is taken away from them. Ministers are expected to announce their decision on POCA shortly.

The Parliamentary motion expresses worries about the damaging results on Post Offices if they lose more business. Ministers and government agencies are currently putting huge pressure on people to get pensions and benefits paid directly into bank accounts instead of through the Post Office.

The motion called on government departments and agencies to use Post Offices to make services available through Post Offices to help both the Post Office network and the people who rely on it. MPs could sign the motion over the summer and autumn. Liberal Democrat MPs then brought it to the House of Commons to debate it on Monday 10th November.

Local Liberal Democrat leader Cllr John Macklin has now accused Neil Gerrard of displaying “an almost unbelievable level of hypocrisy”.

Cllr Macklin said:

“Residents of Walthamstow will have every right to feel let down by Neil Gerrard’s flip-flopping on the future of our local Post Offices.

“This is just another example of local Labour members saying one thing about Post Offices and then voting the exact opposite way.  Their behaviour on this issue over a long period of time has been nothing short of insulting to residents.

“Neil Gerrard has chosen to vote to throw out a motion expressing concerns about the future of our local Post Offices and replace it with praise for what this Government has done to our Post Office network.”

Waltham Forest has been hit hard by local Post Office closures, and local Labour councillors faced criticism over their apparent opposition to the closure programme after it emerged that they rejected a Full Council motion from December 2003 that called for the Post Office Network Reinvention programme to be halted.  The motion, moved by the Liberal Democrats, also expressed concern at the effect of the closures on the elderly and vulnerable.

Liberal Democrats have called for the Post Office to be allowed to continue to pay out pensions and benefits. They have also called for £2 billion of investment in branches, paid for by selling part of the Government’s shareholding in Royal Mail.

They also want more Government departments to use Post Offices to provide services, to free branches from restrictions on doing business with other parcel delivery companies and to broaden the range of commercial services available across the counter.

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