North Ayrshire and Arran MP Patricia Gibson writes about the imminent closure of the Post Office counter at the Nisa Local store in Ardrossan's Glasgow Street.

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The post office in Glasgow Street, Ardrossan, faces imminent closure.

Post offices are a necessity for millions of people and thousands of businesses across the UK, thanks in no small part to the increasingly vital financial and communications services they provide. 

Viability of the post office network is an issue I have frequently raised at Westminster - where power over them lies - particularly when it comes to securing a fair deal for postmasters, increasing access to cash in local communities and extending ongoing energy support.

For many, their local post office is the last face-to-face accessible service for paying bills, obtaining benefits, and, of course, sending a letter or parcel. In addition, post offices have always been at the heart of Scotland’s communities.

To say post offices have economic and social value would be an understatement. In 2021/22, post offices generated £4.7 billion throughout the UK and supported nearly 50,000 full-time equivalent jobs, proving just how much they contribute to the sustainability of communities and businesses.

Post offices delivered £3.1 billion in additional local spending with two in five visits resulted in money being spent in neighbouring shops and businesses. Invaluable is the sense of belonging post offices foster in their respective communities, according to 50% of customers.

As banks abandoned local high streets and the communities they once served, post offices have worked hard to fill the void and ensure continued access to cash and financial services. 

Although most people now bank online, 15 per cent still depend on their post office for cash and banking services. This is particularly true for rural communities, where folk are twice as likely to rely on their local post offices. 

Yet despite how evidently valuable our post offices are and how much they offer, the cost of delivering services is becoming almost impossible to sustain.

Across the UK, 8,364 post offices closed under the last Labour government, which also stripped away many of the services they previously and uniquely delivered, for which sub-postmasters were paid a small fee.

The Tories have continued to erode post office support since. 

Like many businesses, post offices struggle with the impact of rising costs and inflation. Nevertheless, earlier this month the UK Government’s energy support package for businesses was drastically reduced, undermining the viability of many post offices and making further closures inevitable.

As payments for services decline, many post offices and sub-post offices are no longer sustainable, as postmasters struggle to earn a  living.

Diversifying services to maximise income and account for declining government support has not been enough, especially when some of the additional retail and commercial services post offices now include are already provided by larger businesses.

The loss of the Glasgow Street Post Office would be felt by the whole community. 

I have secured a meeting with Mark Gibson from external affairs (Scotland) at Post Office Ltd to discuss retention of Glasgow Street's post office and the ongoing challenges to our post office network - and I will continue to pursue the UK Government to do the right thing and save our post offices.