That the Post Office Card Account is important to community cohesion, that the Post Offices in Castle Point provide a vital service to the local community, but that their future is threatened by uncertainty over the continuation of Her Majestys Governments support for Post Offices and, in particular, the abolition of the Post Office Card Account in 2010, which would be totally unacceptable to the residents of Castle Point, especially vulnerable groups who rely on Post Offices and the viability of our important high street shopping parades.
The current Post Office card account contract ends in March 2010 as always planned and the Government has decided that there will be a new service after 2010. We received clear legal advice that we were required to tender competitively for this product, in order to ensure that best value for money for the taxpayer is achieved. That process is now well underway and an announcement on the successful bidder will be made in the coming months in accordance with appropriate procurement rules once a decision has been reached.
The successor to the Post Office card account will be accessible at personal teller outlets throughout the UKScotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means at least 10,000 outlets to ensure that it will be available in rural areas as well as urban and urban deprived communities, although there is nothing to stop the successful bidder offering a larger network if they wish.
We still believe that being paid into a bank or building society account is the best option for the vast majority of our customers, and around three in four of our customers are paid this way. It gives them more choice about where and when they get their money, enables them to make savings on some bills by paying by direct debit and get interest on balances on their accounts. The Government remains committed to allowing people to access their pension and benefit in cash at the post office if they choose to do so, and there are around 25 accounts which make that possible still generating income for Post Office Ltd and sub-postmasters.
Post Offices play an important social and economic role in the communities they serve and the Government is determined to maintain a national Post Office network allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country. This is why Government invested £2 billion between 1999 and 2006 to support the network and is providing a further £1.7 billion up to 2011 to maintain a national network and put it on a stable footing. Funding includes a continued annual subsidy of up to £150 million until at least 2011 with an expectation of a continued need for subsidy beyond this.
The Petitioners therefore request that request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that South Eastern Railways agree to continue to provide a minimum of two trains an hour at peak times and an hourly service at off-peak times and weekends at Chilham Station: provision of a full train service will avoid the increasing use of cars on already overcrowded and dangerous local roads, avoid exacerbating traffic management problems, avoid increasing pollution and avoid detracting from the vibrancy of Chilham as a centre for rural tourism, business and living.
The proposed changes to rail services from Chilham station from December 2009 are part of a major recasting of the timetable which also sees the introduction of domestic high speed services between London and Kent.
In the original service specification, which was published by the Strategic Rail Authority in a Stakeholder Briefing Document in January 2005, Chilham was to have a total of six trains in each direction in the morning and evening peak periods but no service off-peak or at weekends.
It was recognised that some of the assumptions underlying the original service specification had changed in the time since its publication. Southeastern therefore reviewed demand for rail services in Kent during 2007 to ensure that the December 2009 timetable matched current customer demand.
Southeastern now propose some changes to the service specification for December 2009 to align services more closely with the demand levels identified by their research. Under the terms of their Franchise Agreement, Southeastern must consult stakeholders on these proposed changes and the Secretary of State will take account of the consultation responses when considering whether to allow the changes to be implemented.
Southeastern have advised the department that they propose to provide an hourly service from Chilham
during the off-peak and at weekends. This is additional to the original service specification and in line with the aspirations of the petitioners.