Post Office Closures and the Privatisation Agenda


Christopher James Stone

The post office in Gladstone Road, Whitstable

As you will know by now, the post office in Gladstone Road, Whitstable is about to close.

This will come as no surprise to people who use the facility regularly, as it has been abundantly clear for some time that it is being run down. There are hardly any leaflets available, there are no pens along the counter where the public queue, and nothing seems to be on sale any more. The whole office has a dreary and neglected air.

This is only one of 70 post offices up and down the country that are due to close or to be subsumed as franchises in stores such as WHSmith. Anyone who’s been to the post office in Canterbury will know what this means.

The ostensible reason for this is that the Post Office made a loss of £40 million last year. This is hardly surprising given that most of its main functions have been handed out to private companies.

Actually, the Post Office has never made a profit, unlike the Royal Mail, which always has.

People often get the two mixed up, calling the Royal Mail “the Post Office” and visa versa. In fact, they are two separate organisations, although they were once – along with BT – part of the GPO. Until 1969 the GPO was considered important enough to warrant its own Cabinet Minister.

Not any more. The Royal Mail is due to be privatised in 2014, while the Post Office is being run down ready for closure. BT was sold off many years ago, of course, being the most profitable of the lot.

And this is how the privatising agenda works. The Royal Mail makes a profit, the Post Office doesn’t. By separating the two, keeping the loss making part in public hands, while selling off the profitable part, we are effectively giving a public subsidy to the private sector, allowing them to make their profits at our expense. Privatisation of profit, socialisation of cost.

We are breaking apart one of our most iconic and historic public institutions for the short term gain of a few private individuals.

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