Local Liberal Democrat post office campaigners are celebrating after a Labour u-turn on the future of the Post Office Card Account (POCA).
The Government announced on Thursday that it is now cancelling its procurement process and awarding the contract for the Post Office Card Account (POCA) to the Post Office for a further five years.
The Lib Dems had led attempts to block the removal of the contract from the Post Office, claiming that it amounted to a deliberate attempt to encourage people to switch payment to direct debit and remove the role of the Post Office.
It is estimated that around a third of the income of many post offices comes from the POCA and Post Offices benefit additionally from the ‘footfall’ of shoppers.
Lib Dem Higham Hill councillor Patrick Smith, who recently attended the National Post Office Conference, claimed that the u-turn would come as a relief to post office employees and customers, calling the decision to put the contract out to tender the latest example of the Labour Government “attempting by stealth to wind up traditional Post Office business in order to then make the economic case for more closures.”
Cllr Smith continued:
“This Government has been running down our post offices, removing the services that local communities rely on.
“This welcome climb down over the future of Post Office Card Accounts perhaps suggests that Labour are finally beginning to realise that they cannot any longer simply ride roughshod over the wishes of the communities served by these crucial facilities.”
Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Jenny Willott said:
“This announcement comes as a huge relief to the millions of Post Office Card Account holders, thousands of Sub Post Masters and the countless communities that may have lost their post office if the decision had been different.”
“The Government has wasted time and money and caused immeasurable heartache by dragging this process out for so long.
“This could all have been avoided if, as the Liberal Democrats have long argued, the Post Office Card Account had never been put out to tender in the first place.
“However, cancelling the procurement exercise is a peculiar means of arriving at this decision and Ministers have some explaining to do.”