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Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly has praised community campaigners after the Government announced that the Post Office had retained the contract to provide card account services.
The news will be also be celebrated by local post offices, which rely greatly on the business generated from customers collecting pensions or benefits through the Post Office Card Account.
In all, over 8,100 people in Newcastle-under-Lyme have accounts at the Post Office and over 3,000 wrote to Mr Farrelly in support of the Post Office’s bid to retain the contract.
With fellow North Staffordshire MPs, Paul personally lobbied Secretary of State James Purnell before the summer and then again last week.
Welcoming the news, Mr Farrelly thanked local people for campaigning with him on the issue. He said: “This is great news for the Post Office.I am delighted that the Government has listened. I would like to thank everyone who has stood up for local post offices and who wrote to me.
“Post Offices are important providers of banking services in local area, too, and a trusted brand in these troubled times. This vote of confidence, therefore, is doubly welcome right now.”
The National Federation of Sub Post Masters had warned that, without the business generated by the POCA around 3,000 Post Offices faced the risk of closure.
The Government announced in December 2006 that there would be a successor to POCA and put that product out to tender. However, in order to support a viable network, it has now decided to cancel the current procurement exercise, as the Post Office’s case was so strong.
Labour’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, paid tribute to North Staffordshire MPs for campaigning on this issue saying:
“I applaud MPs in North Staffordshire for standing up for their local post offices. I know how important they are to local communities and this provides real help for these local businesses and their customers in tough times,” he said.
The Post Office Card Account is specifically designed to pay benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency, Service Personnel and Veterans’ Agency and Inland Revenue tax credits.
Only benefits and pensions can be paid in and they are collected across a post office counter using a plastic card and PIN. About four million people receive their benefits and pensions in this way, including around two million pensioners.
“This is the right decision for people in Newcastle and it should now safeguard the viability of post office branches both here and across the country,” added Paul.