It seems that the Labour MP for Luton North, Kelvin Hopkins, was asked to officially open the newly modernised post office in Hockwell Ring this week. See the report here.
This is a good news story and Kelvin is right to welcome this improved community facility. But I wonder if he also thanked the coalition government whose decisions made it possible? Perhaps not.
But he should. Up until the last general election the only thing that was happening to Post Offices in Luton was them being closed. I had one forced to shut in the ward I represented on the Council. This was all part of the then Labour government’s ‘Network Change Programme’ which included closing around 2,500 branches in an 18 month period beginning in October 2007. A deeply destructive attack on an important community service the impact of which was felt in Luton as it was elsewhere.
When the coalition government was formed it made a commitment that there would no longer be a post office closure programme. A commitment that has been kept. This was a genuine change in policy and in attitude. The role of Post Offices was to be valued in a way that wasn’t the case before.
Plus the government has gone further and, despite the difficult financial circumstances, has invested in the Post Office network. Before he moved to the Department of Health, the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb was the minister responsible for the Post Office. Back in March 2012 he launched a £1.34bn three-year investment and support programme — the largest in the history of the Post Office. This will involve converting and refurbishing around 6,000 Post Offices across the country.
Unlike Labour’s programmes of closures the coalition is carrying out a genuine modernisation of the Post Office network — and this is what has funded the improvements at Hockwell Ring.