Services must remain at our Post Offices

EDITOR – Communities around Lincolnshire and throughout Britain have traditionally relied upon a number of institutions to maintain their stability, create cohesion, and give everyone a sense of pride and place.

These vary from the local parish and other religious congregations, to the village shop, the pub, and of course the post office.

I have received a great deal of correspondence from around the Gainsborough constituency relating to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and its contract to provide services through local post offices.

If the DVLA withdraw access to government services from post offices it will make life a great deal more difficult for everyone.

Post offices are perfectly placed to act as a ‘front office’ for government and so far as is feasible, citizens and taxpayers ought to be able to access government services through them. When I was Post Office minister, I fought hard to secure viable roles for our local post offices, and that’s something I still believe very strongly in today.

I very much hope the DVLA and the Post Office will place this relationship on a firm foundation for the future.

Many have also written to me about Air Passenger Duty. I am entirely opposed to the current high level of APD and think it should be cut massively in order to spur growth and allow people freedom of movement.

This country, however, is in a dire fiscal situation, and the current Government has inherited a massive debt from the previous one. I’m afraid they’re not doing enough to balance the books as it is, and the Government has ensured that APD will increase only in line with inflation (increases up to this point had been mandated by pre-existing legislation).

This means we remain in a distinct economic disadvantage when compared to our European neighbours who currently enjoy much lower rates of duty on airfare.

The Government’s first priority must be to get the books in order, and once that looks achievable, we should then undertake a root-up reform of the way tax is collected in this country, which I hope 
will include a massive reduction in Air Passenger Duty.

The recent plans released by the East Midlands Ambulance Service provide another cause for concern. EMAS is planning on shutting Gainsborough’s ambulance station, which, if done, will raise serious questions about the Service’s future ability to respond to emergencies in our part of Lincolnshire.

As a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that examines government waste in services, I understand very well the need to increase efficiency and pool resources with the aim of creating savings for the taxpayer.

Public safety, however, is the absolute priority, and the Gainsborough ambulance station is a vital necessity to those who live and work in the surrounding area.

I have written to both the chairman and the chief Executive of the East Midlands Ambulance Service encouraging them to revisit this decision, and hope that we can come to a sensible agreement for the greater good.

EDWARD LEIGH

MP for Gainsborough Ward