Few people appear to be aware of the reason for the closure
of thousands of our post offices, the root cause of which
is the Amsterdam Treaty and the EU Postal Services Directive
This directive, with no debate by Westminster or the
risible EU Regional Council so misleadingly named The
National Assembly for Wales a name given by some WAG to
dupe the peoples, by diktat it has been imposed on OUR
government to allow the German Post Office (the Bundespost)
to operate in the UK. Not surprisingly, the Bundespost
has creamed off millions of high revenue business post
from The Royal Mail. If, for any reason, the Bundespost
decides not to deliver its mail, the Royal Mail has to
deliver it at a cost to the Bundespost of only 14 pence
At the same time we, the British public, are paying 23
pence per letter for second-class post, a price scheduled
to rise yet again. Hence, we are subsidising foreign competition
to the tune of 9 pence per letter. The new postal charging
system, recently introduced to comply with an EU Directive,
has forced the Royal Mail to price itself out of handling
many packages which hitherto it could deliver at a profit,
thus driving the delivery of these items into the hands
of private (mainly German) contractors.
Given these simple facts it is not surprising that our
postal services, which were once self-financing and the
envy of the world, in common with hundreds of other successful
British businesses over the past thirty years, have been
decimated by virtue of our membership of the European
Union. The Bundespost is protected by the German government
who flatly refuse to implement these same EU Directive,
thus preventing foreign competitors into Germany, for
at least five years.
It has been stated that our government will set the level
of subsidy the Royal Mail may receive from the taxpayer.
Whatever figure is decided upon Gordon Brown & Alastaire
Darling, or their successors,will have to go cap-in-hand
to Brussels for permission. Thus, we are governed by foreign
Commissioners in Brussels, for whom we did not vote and
cannot sack, imposing laws overriding Justice and democracy
in OUR Country, whether we see that as these United Kingdoms
or Wales, Britain or Westminster, Scotland or Northern
(EU Commissioners recently overruled a decision, in favour
of a British company, by the European Court of Justice
Forcing a profitable, legal business to close and
force its employees out of work; like so many other businesses
destroyed by membership of the centralised EUropean soviet).
The Institute of Directors has shown that the cost of
membership of this undemocratic and corrupt EU is £1,800,000
per hour. Separate Independent accountants have calculated
that the cost of our vassal status in the EU, with effect
from 1st January, will rise to just under £100,000
per minute 24 hours a day for 2007 - the cost will rise
again in 2008.
We are steadily being made poorer, and less free to run
our own affairs or control our own borders, by the EU
and paying handsomely for the privilege of being overrun
by incomers at a rate with which we can not cope but for
which we must pay. How can any but the corrupt claim membership
of this unaccountable EU is anything but calamitous for
No British Government body has ever dared to produce
a clear and balanced cost benefit of our membership, nor
define the immense benefits of self determination, independence,
liberty and freedom to exercise our Sovereignty in the
interests of the British tax payers and future generations
of our peoples.
The anger expressed in your columns at the closure of
post offices should be directed - not at the EU - but
at those British politicians who insist we should remain
members of the EU.
The only peaceful way Britain can restore its independence
is for the electorate to vote for a prospective MP who
is committed to repealing the 1972 European Communities
Act, thus freeing us from the loathsome European Union.
The alternative will be Civil Disobedience as crippling
poverty of the collapse of our industry continues emulating
fishing, farming, auto production, aviation and so much
more the latest example being The Royal Mail.
The most irritating words a woman ever hears are: ''Look
what you made me do.' Makes you ball your fists and gibber,
Out of the mouth of a child who has just upended his
M&S organic orange juice, it's just about forgivable:
he didn't want his vitamins, he was told to pipe down
and drink them and now the sticky mess all over the mat
is the naggy primary carer's fault, not his. (Mum-MEE!
Look what you made me do.)
Out of the mouth of a grown man, this whinging-toddler
speak is unforgivable. Especially when that grown man
heads the Government. Prime minister Blair (how long,
O Lord, how long before we can stop using that descriptor?)
is feeling very sulky about post office closures. This
week he said that the whizzy scheme to shut them down
by the several thousand is OUR fault, not his.
We didn't use them enough! We didn't create enough footfall!
We kept going online instead! We deliberately and knowingly
made post offices uneconomic, and now he has no alternative
but to close them down: ''Look what you made me do.' I
think I resent our prime minister most of all when he's
whining like a thumb-in-mouth pre-schooler whose blood-sugar
level is too low.
I live in a tiny Hampshire village which used to have
a sub-post office, and now doesn't. It was inside Mrs
Crick's village shop and when the children were small
we would plod the mile down the road with a pushchair.
Mrs Crick sold everything a village might want, from Polyfilla
and Dinky toys to groceries and birthday cards. When she
died, the shop was sold off as a private house, so the
village suddenly had neither shop nor post office and
there was a fair bit of fretting and moaning.
My late mother's various followers and callers at the
house (four or five septuagenarian old boys scattered
around the village) were all thoroughly scandalised. Mr
Palmer, who brought Ma plants and saplings and great mucky
handfuls of ''everlastin' onions (shallots, I realized
later) never let up about the closure. Sucking gummily
on his tea, he kept telling her: ''It's the old people
I worry about.' The OLD people? ''Yerce, them as haven't
got bikes like me. It's a long walk up to Kingsclere for
your pension, and all uphill.' (It is a longish walk,
though it's a two-minute drive. ''The old uns will be
strapped for their weekly money.'
Mr Appleby (my old Ma's cheery mole-strangler, who came
tottering round with his bits of wire and a sack for the
little black corpses) wasn't a biker, but he said his
niece was ''good enough to drive him up to Kingsclere
every so often'.
Still, he fretted that she might be moving over Basingstoke
way next summer and he didn't know what would become of
him after that. (What became of all my ma's old beaux
was blessedly quick and peaceful, as I recall). So we
use Kingsclere Post Office now, in the next nearest village,
and we use it assiduously. Me and my neighbour, the headhunter's
wife, sometimes even hike the three miles uphill.
Even though we're both quite snappy, modern women actually,
Tony even though we both live admirably ball-juggling
21st-century lives (like Cherie), even though we're online,
even though the biggest superstore in the area is helpfully
our side of the Newbury logjam. We use the post office
BECAUSE it's a village amenity and we trog up there to
add our footfall every chance we get. Since the blessed
First of May 1997, our opportunities to use-it-or-lose-it
have become fewer.
This is not our fault but Tony's. The first irritation
was moving passport forms to main post offices
so our former green hike became a carbon-heavy drive to
Newbury, a hunt for parking-space and a queue running
twice round the barrier and out into Corn Exchange Square
before you got to ''Counter number nine, please!' Beyond
annoying. But the loss of revenue for the local postmistress
was more so.
In 2003, Tony signed off on the slash-and-burn decision
to pay pensions and benefits directly into bank and building
society accounts. Luckily, my old Ma, who didn't have
either (she kept her stash in a Post Office National Savings
account) popped her clogs before I had to tell her she'd
lose her weekly cash-in-hand. And luckily, my neighbour
the headhunter's wife is doughty enough to take all the
time it took (''weeks and weeks!') to keep her last child's
benefit book in her own hands (and the postmistress's).
Instead of -whose? Horrible Capita's, I imagine? They
run the BBC licence fee now, to my undying rage.
I really don't understand why a private company such
as Capita (the UK's leading business process outsourcing
and professional services company, according to their
bleak website) should be allowed to grub up large amounts
of taxpayers' money for public services while those same
public services (especially post offices and most especially
rural post offices) gasp and choke for lack of revenue.
Is this joined-up government? Is Tony Blair kidding me?
The idea that he can pettishly tell us that we don't
use post offices, that we've ''voted with our feet' and
''embraced choice', is mind-boggling.
The pension-book decision resulted in a deliberate
and massive loss of revenue.
I can't remember how much money he told the nation this
would ''save' at the time, but I do remember thinking
that his numbers didn't add up. They still don't add up.
(Hands up who's surprised?) Yesterday he said that ''since
1999 the Government has spent £2 billion of taxpayers'
money supporting post offices'. Supporting? And great
heavens, with such a boggling sum?
Would that be enough to pay for Operation Telic, do you
There's been a lot of coverage of the post office closure
decision, not least via this newspaper's STOP JIM campaign.
Me, I barely know who the hell ''Jim' is, nor care: he
could be any one of those interchangeable on-message apparatchiks
with West of Scotland accents. But I'll bet my life he
can't make the sums add up any more than I can. An annual
subsidy of £144 million goes to 14,400 sub-post
That's about £10,000 each from ''government money',
which as every Daily Telegraph reader knows is his, her
or my money. And some rural ones have as few as 16 transactions
a week! That's soooo not good business! Gosh, can't have
this. Something must be closed.
But all government spending is ''subsidy' - whether
it's on wars, schools, roads, rural post offices or providing
Turkish translation services for newly-arrived British
citizens who want to attend a Stop Smoking course ''because
it's my right'. (Tuesday night's Newsnight was a real
shocker for anyone fretting about government waste.) In
order to ''save' this irritating subsidy, the Government
will ''spend' £200 million in 2008 to close thousands
of post offices.
Since a not inconsiderable (to me) swathe of the money
the Government ''spends' and ''saves' annually on stuff
starts life as mine, I feel I have some heft on how it's
got and spent. Better when the sums add up, I always think.
And best of all when the sums are spent on keeping postmasters
in work. Work is good for people I do a fair bit
myself. And for every post office the Government shuts
down on our behalf (to ''save' our money) there will be
a wage-earner the Government has to prop up with benefits
(or ''spend' our money).
Believe, I am not a sentimental woman. I don't think
of my post office as a ''community lifeline' or a throwback
to Olde England Heritage-land. It's a public service we
pay for. It should be kept. Any chance at all, do you
Traditionally, the middle of December heralds the appearance
of Santa hats, office parties and trips to the post office
to offload cards and parcels. Strange that this of all
seasons should herald the news that up to 7,000 Post Office
branches are for the chop.
For most of us, this will mean driving a bit further
to another branch hardly desirable, given Gordon
Brown's wish to tax us off the roads. But to some people
particularly the old, disadvantaged and those in
rural communities the consequences are much worse.
If you cannot walk easily and cannot drive, the journey
to another post office even an urban one a mile
away may be a major undertaking. According to a
survey by Age Concern earlier this year, 99 per cent of
elderly people in rural areas consider their local post
office to be a 'lifeline'. But modernisers within Government
and the Post Office itself operate on strictly Thatcherite
While Royal Mail has roared into profit (£537 million
in 2005), its Post Office operation continues to make
a £110 million loss. Old-fashioned service by a
postmaster who can satisfy your mailing needs and sell
you half a dozen eggs, must be sacrificed, it is said,
to newer forms of technology.
In 2003, the decision to pay pensions and benefits directly
into bank and building society accounts caused some branches
to suffer a drastic fall in revenue. This has entrenched
the view that the post office network is past its sell-by
date. But life is more complicated than that.
While the internet has denied some sources of business
to the post office, it has created new ones. Take eBay.
One sub-post master told me: 'What I lost in pensions
I made up in the extra posting. A number of regulars bring
40 or 50 parcels at a time.'
Surely, though, the greatest value is the social role
provided by the post office and its accompanying shop.
At a time when church, pub, school, police house and vicarage
have disappeared from many communities, the post office
may be the only service left and the only rallying point
for a village.
The Post Office receives a subsidy of £150 million
to keep loss-making branches open but this could be far
exceeded by the cost of supporting or rehousing elderly,
infirm and other 'socially excluded' populations for whom
life in remote communities becomes unviable once their
last lifeline has been lost. Ministers should think again.
Plans to raise train fares by more than the rate of inflation
triggered an angry response from passenger groups yesterday.
The increases will see regulated fares such as
commuters' season tickets and saver fares, where passengers
must complete their return journey within a month
go up by an average of 4.3 per cent. The remaining 60
per cent of fares, which are not subject to government
controls, will rise by between 3.2 per cent and 6.6 per
cent an average of 4.7 per cent.
Commuters on the Southeastern line linking Kent to London
will face a 6.3 per cent rise, under the terms of the
new franchise agreement awarded by the Department for
Transport. Consumer anger was led by Anthony Smith, the
chief executive of the watchdog group Passenger Focus.
'Inflation-busting price hikes on top of already high
fares will make for an unhappy passenger New Year,' he
'If you now want to travel longer distances in the peak
period and don't know exactly when you are coming back
you will pay very, very dearly. 'If passengers want flexibility
or have no choice about when to travel they now face off-putting
prices. Levels of crowding now mean that there is no more
room for manoeuvre people are being priced off
the railways just as the off-peak is also becoming crowded.'
The annual fare rises were unveiled by the Association
of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) the day after Network
Rail, the not-for-dividend infrastructure company, announced
that it made a £747 million profit last year. The
transport union RMT warned that the price hikes would
drive people back into their cars Around £500 million
came from increased track access charges levied on train
operators, which in turn derive their income from passengers.
Brian Cooke, the chairman of London TravelWatch, said
he was disappointed by the rises, especially on Virgin,
where some fares are due to rise by eight per cent. 'A
long-distance journey that cannot be planned well in advance
is becoming increasingly expensive. It is in no one's
interest to price people off the railways, especially
on routes where cheap air travel is a viable alternative,'
The transport union RMT warned that the price hikes would
drive people back into their cars.
'The Government talks about the climate challenge and
the importance of reducing carbon emissions, but allowing
never-ending above-inflation rail fares rises will only
result in more polluting road traffic,' said Bob Crow,
the union's general secretary.
'It is only six months since the Commons transport select
committee condemned the shambolic state of rail pricing
structures and exposed the private sector's inability
to operate the railways as a public service.' The Tories'
transport spokesman, Chris Grayling, said the price rises
were unwelcome news for passengers. 'We have inflation-busting
fare increases at a time when trains are becoming more
and more overcrowded and absolutely nothing is being done
to tackle the problem.
'The Government promised us big improvements in its 10-year
plan but virtually none of those improvements has
happened. Now you have train companies ripping out the
seats to create extra standing room and expecting passengers
to pay through the nose to travel like sardines.' Atoc
said the rises in fares were justified, with the revenue
being spent on funding improvements to the railway.
'While no one likes to pay more for travel, we need the
revenue to pay for the ongoing improvements to the railways
that passengers expect. And overall satisfaction levels
are now at an all-time high of 80 per cent,' said George
Muir, Atoc's director general.
'Train operators will continue to raise their game, delivering
further improvements to the railway.'
The Rail Regulator blamed the Government's franchising
policy yesterday for many of the defects in the market
for train rolling stock, as it said it was minded to order
a full competition inquiry into the sector.
The Department for Transport asked the Office of the
Rail Regulator (ORR) to examine the lack of competition
for rolling stock in June, claiming that the three train-leasing
companies, all of which are owned by banks, are making
£175m a year in excessive profits.
The answer that came back yesterday was that the industry
was indeed inefficient but the ORR concluded that 'it
is evident that a number of these [negative] features
arise from Government policies'.
The ORR highlighted aspects of the market such as the
department making the award of a franchise so specific,
that the train operator's choice of stock was very limited.
The regulator was also critical of business practices
of the leasing companies, including maintenance and service
The regulator's criticism of the Government gave the
train leasing companies immediate ammunition to hit back.
The three companies are Porterbrook, which is part of
Banco Santander, Angel Trains, which is owned by the Royal
Bank of Scotland, and HSBCRail.
Angel pointed out that it had invested £3bn in
new trains in recent years and said: 'Angel Trains is
clear that there is no case for further investigation.
If, as the report indicates, it is the DfT's own franchising
policy which is principally responsible for the matters
about which it has complained, DfT has the remedy for
this in its own hands.'
The DfT welcomed the ORR's statement that it was 'minded'
to refer the £1bn-a-year sector to the Competition
Commission, claiming that the excess profits being made
would equal £2bn over the life of the leases - equivalent
to an 8 per cent increase in annual season tickets. The
DfT added: 'The Government believes that this money would
be better invested in the rail network to deliver further
improvements for the traveling public.'
A spokesman insisted its policies were not at fault but
he added: 'The ORR has questioned whether changes to the
franchise process would help. We will be happy to explore
this further with them during the consultation but find
it difficult to see how it will have a significant impact
on the current market given the technical and operational
characteristics of the trains and the market of which
they are part.'
The ORR said there was 'very limited' choice when it
came to selecting passenger rolling stock for franchised
passenger services, with franchisees often having few
alternatives but to re-lease the rolling stock previously
in use in that franchise. 'This, we suspect, has led to
higher prices and lower quality of service than would
be the case in a more competitive market,' the ORR said.
The regulator will now go into a consultation period
before deciding whether to make a reference to the Competition
Commission, which would then launch an inquiry that could
last two years.
The leasing group Porterbrook appealed for a less draconian
action than a Competition Commission probe which, it said,
would involve significant costs and 'would also lead to
unnecessary market uncertainty'.
The company suggested a review by the rail regulator
instead or an amendment to the industry codes of practice.
The Government´s plans for investing in Britain´s
railways are in disarray after the company operating the
most profitable route surrendered the contract yesterday.
GNER had signed the contract only 18 months ago, under
which it had agreed to pay the Government £1.3 billion
over ten years to run trains between London and Edinburgh.
Ministers were relying on the money to prop up loss-making
services elsewhere, and to pay for improvements, such
as longer trains and platforms, on overcrowded routes.
The failure of the contract also raises doubts about
the viability of other franchises, such as South West
Trains and First Great Western, where the operators have
each promised to pay more than £1 billion over the
next decade. Passenger Focus, the rail passenger watchdog,
said that the Government was partly to blame because it
had accepted an unrealistic bid from GNER - said to be
£300 million higher than any other company was willing
Anthony Smith, the watchdog´s chief executive,
said: 'This shows that driving a very hard bargain with
train companies may not always be in the best interests
of passengers. It will do nothing to calm concerns about
the premiums which have been promised by some of the other
Tom Winsor, the former Rail Regulator, said: 'The failure
of GNER´s contract has cost the taxpayer hundreds
of millions of pounds. Competition for franchises has
become so vigorous that companies are sometimes tempted
to put in optimistic bids - and it can go wrong.'
GNER will continue to run trains on the route for up
to 18 months while the Department for Transport seeks
another operator. The company will be allowed to keep
an undisclosed proportion of any cost savings it makes,
and any revenue it receives above a certain target.
The company attributed the failure of the contract to
the downturn in tourism after last years bombings
in London, a rise in electricity prices and the emergence
of a small rival company on the same route. The transport
department refused to say how much it expected to lose
from the contract´s failure and would not reveal
the details of its temporary agreement with GNER. A senior
rail industry source said that bidders would offer several
hundred million pounds less than GNER agreed to pay last
year. First Group, the biggest train company, said that
it planned to submit a bid.
Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA, the white
collar rail union, said that the failure of the contract
showed the current rail franchising system was fundamentally
flawed. 'Instead of this lottery, this franchise should
be handed over to Network Rail to run it for the benefit
of the passenger.'