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Call for council services at Post Office counters

12 August 2011

Age Scotland is backing calls by Scotland's postal services watchdog, Consumer Focus Scotland, for local authorities to use Scotland's network of over 1400 post offices to deliver more council services.
The Charity fully supports the proposal that the Scottish Government create a ‘high-level group' to pinpoint additional public services that could be delivered through post offices and ensure a consistent approach to this across the country.
A new Consumer Focus Scotland report "The post office network in Scotland" outlines the services citizens currently access at their local post office counter, from paying council tax and renewing travel passes to arranging meals on wheels - and the differences between councils across the country.
The report highlights the fact that older, poorer and other vulnerable consumers - who regularly use post offices and do not always have access to online services - would benefit the most from a greater range of services.
It further reveals that over a quarter of people in lower socio-economic groups already use the post office to access some council services.  Over 40 percent of 65 year olds and over a third of people on low-incomes or with disabilities in Scotland, visit at least once a week.
In other countries, local government services are provided through post offices to good effect. These include the payment of childcare fees in Australia, applications for disabled parking permits in Italy and pre-paid city and airport parking in Ireland.
Post offices in Switzerland are hubs for local government information, notices and newsletters and post offices in Ireland display local authority planning department information.
Fife police recently started an initiative at seven post offices where local residents and visitors can report minor crimes, submit driving documents and collect and hand in lost property - residents can also leave non-urgent messages for police officers.
Consumer Focus Scotland Postal Services Policy Manager Annie McGovern, said: "Post offices are Scotland's largest retail chain, as well as being trusted and valued hubs embedded in local communities across Scotland and there are some great examples of how post offices are being used by councils and others such as the police to deliver public services to local residents.
 "We are calling on the Scottish Government, Cosla and the Post Office to come together and develop a plan that will help to preserve these vital community assets that so many vulnerable people clearly depend upon, by boosting the services they offer.
Age Scotland's Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Callum Chomczuk said: "Research shows that post offices are valued for the security and privacy they offer people, particularly those on low incomes, right across Scotland and post offices working in partnership with local authorities could be much better positioned to target services at previously hard-to-reach constituents.
"Age Scotland believes that having additional public services available at local post office counters would not only improve the long-term future of the network but could also provide vital support to vulnerable consumers, such as older people, who use these depots on a regular basis."