Members of The National Federation of Subpostmasters; MP Marion Fellows (SNP) and four postmasters visited Downing Street on Thursday 2 November to submit their petition to Rishi Sunak to retain DVLA services at Post Offices.
NFSP CEO Calum Greenhow said, “Presenting this petition to Downing Street is a critical moment for us. Every year services are being removed from Post Offices and this is our chance to fight back. The fact that so many customers signed our petition demonstrates that the public want DVLA services to remain available in Post Offices. As de facto business partners of government, we need genuine support to maintain our ability to provide vital services in our communities across the country.”
The petition, which has been signed by hundreds and thousands of postmasters and customers, was created to put pressure on the Government to reverse their decision to remove all DVLA Services by March 2024. This would have an incredible detrimental effect on not only postmasters, but all their customers who rely on face-to-face contact and the support they receive from Post Offices.
MP Marion Fellows said, "The National Federation of Subpostmasters could not have been clearer in its opposition to the withdrawal of DVLA services from our high street Post Offices. The petition shows that people from all walks of life are backing them because the damage which will come from these changes is incalculable.
"The UK Government - and Rishi Sunak - can put an end to this plan in short order by responding to the compelling concerns which have been raised and can reverse this decision. This is about freedom of choice for customers.
"People who are not used to using online services, such as elderly people or those with disabilities should be allowed to have an alternative. Currently, 1.2 million adults do not have a bank account and 6% of households equating to 1.51 million people do not have access to the internet.
"Sub post offices can be, and should be, nurtured by the UK government because of their role in acting as high street hubs, providing access to cash and increasing footfall in our communities.
"Our Post Offices have suffered grievously because of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. Now is the time for that to change and the UK government can start that process now.”
One of the Postmasters attending Downing Street, Tim Allen who owns a Mains Post Office in Hereford said, “Whilst my local MP has taken an active interest, there has been no indication from government that they even recognise the seriousness of the issue facing the continued viability of local Post Offices or, and even more seriously, the effect of losing DVLA services for many members of the public.
“In some small way I hope our visit serves as a trigger that brings some focus, so the right questions are asked, and the powers that be desist from the needless squandering of the fabulous service Postmasters do, can and could provide.
“There is a huge list of services we have already lost including TV Licenses, Premium Bonds, Bus passes, HMRC personal tax payments, Pensions & Benefits and even Fishing Licences!
“To my mind the job we should be doing is to provide the public with the ability to fully interact with government, banks and ALL utilities when a member of the public has a bill they need to pay and do not want to be mandated to do it online.”
Also at Downing Street was Midlands Postmaster, Jenny Cain, from Barnards Green Post Office in the Malvern Hills. She said, “3.2 million visits to the Post Office will be lost if this goes ahead! Over the last nine years of being a Postmaster I have seen the gradual erosion of government services from the Post Office. Yes, the Government has a digital engagement strategy and targets that they must meet, but on the other hand they are failing to meet their pledge that Post Offices should be the "front office of government.
“More and more restrictions are being put in place and further withdrawals of services are making a proportion of society excluded as they do not either have, or want, access to digital technology or are vulnerable and require face to face help. It is also putting the livelihood of postmasters in jeopardy with a further reduction in footfall and transactions in branches that are already being underpaid and squeezed by historic management decisions.”
Sue Edgar, Postmaster of Guisborough Post Office, added, “We are fighting to save postmasters everywhere. It’s not just about the DVLA, it’s about everything we provide.
“It will force some post offices to close. We’re a vital part of communities and we’ll be gone.
“Post Offices are a key part of every local community. We’re the place where a lot of people go. It’s not just the elderly and vulnerable people who come to us, we get youngsters as well and we help with all sorts of things.”
NFSP Chair Tim Boothman said, “The message to Government is very clear, we’d like DVLA services to remain in post offices after 1st April 2024.
“The Government needs to think very clearly about this and do a U-turn on its decision.
“Post Offices are key to communities. There should always be somewhere that people can call in with enquiries, to perform transactions and it’s also essential for the viability of the network.
“We’ve got some fantastic postmasters out there who have rallied round and pushed this petition. I’d like to thank everybody who has taken part in the campaign and got their customers and communities involved.”