COMMUNITIES across High Peak are holding their breath over a Government decision on a key £600 million contract which could give local post offices a huge shot in the arm – or put another nail in their coffin.
Post Office Limited is waiting to learn if it has been successful in its bid to continue to provide services on behalf of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Government’s car licensing division.
Many High Peak post offices already carry out DVLA work, such as providing tax discs.
This new ten-year contract – worth around £60 million a year to the Post Office network – is much bigger than its predecessor as it includes additional work previously carried out by DVLA local offices.
But the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP) is warning that if the contract for DVLA work is lost, many post offices will face a struggle to survive – a statement echoed this week by one branch in Hayfield.
Les Baines, who runs Hayfield Sub Post Office with his wife Linda, said: “It’s already a struggle, but if the DVLA work goes it would remove a third of our commission and make it no longer viable for us to continue. It’s make or break time for us.
“The Government promised us extra work and pledged no more post offices would have to close, but they seem to be doing the exact opposite by the back door with this tendering process.”
The Hayfield community has been quick to show its support, with hundreds signing cards pledging their support.
Parish councillor Val Wieteska said: “The post office is a lifeblood of the community. We have lots of elderly residents in the village and people without transport, so it is absolutely vital to keep these services local.”
High Peak MP Andrew Bingham, who is to lobby the Government, said: “I have long been a supporter of the Post Office network and fully appreciate the wider benefits that a post office brings to small rural communities such as Hayfield.”
While losing DVLA work could prove catastrophic, winning the new contract – which includes processing almost everything to do with a car, from change of ownership details to changes to number plates– would be a huge shot in the arm for the postal organisation.
Tim Boothman, Postmaster at Chapel-en-le-Frith Post Office, said: “This contract is absolutely vital. It would be a lifeline for rural post offices, as well as a massive saving for the DVLA and the taxpayer.”
A spokesperson for the NFSP added: “The revenue from the DVLA contract is of vital importance both to individual post offices and to the network as a whole.
“Without it, many post offices would undoubtedly struggle to survive, which in turn would have a catastrophic impact on the millions of people who rely upon our network.
“A failure to deliver this contract exclusively to the Post Office would also leave the Government’s policy of using our post offices as ‘the front office for Government’ in tatters.”