Earlier this week a horse-drawn Royal Mail coach made its way past the Scottish Parliament to celebrate 500 years of the Royal Mail.

The Post Office network used to be an integral part of the Royal Mail until the greed of privatisation reared its ugly head and separated the two organisations.

And now with the continuing plans to reduce, replace and privatise local post offices, including the Crown Post Office network, the rare sight of a horse-drawn mail coach may be easier to find than a post office which can supply its customers with a full range of services.

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Earlier this year the Post Office announced that 42 Crown Post Offices were for the chop.

Three of them were simply being shut but the others were earmarked for privatisation as their services were franchised out to any local business willing to take on the reduced services now on offer.

What is currently happening to the Crown Post Offices is simply a repeat of the tactics used on smaller post offices across the country.

Thousands of local post offices have been closed or transferred into other local shops, such as newsagents. This was part of a so-called Network Transformation programme introduced by the Post Office in 2011.

It introduced a new operating model called “Locals” but this has been heavily criticised for reducing services and eroding reasonable revenues for postmasters, potentially threatening thousands of closures and fundamentally changing post offices forever.

The postal watchdog Consumer Focus found in its report, Local but limited? that on top of having a narrower range of products – with DVLA, passport, on-demand foreign currency and Post Office financial services being excluded from the Locals offer entirely – a number of branches were refusing to take parcels, and limiting cash withdrawals for pensions and benefits.

The Post Office has always avoided mentioning that services will be cut.

They prefer to hide the real impact of their plans by coming up with terms like “Urban Reinvention Programme” or “Network Change Programme” but whatever clever phase they come up with the outcome is the same; fewer local services for customers.

The latest target for Post Office managers is the Crown Post Office network, with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) fearing that up to 1,000 jobs could be lost. 

The plan is to reduce the number by simply closing them down entirely or by franchising them out to other businesses. In a previous closure programme, around 85 or so Crown Post Offices were closed.

Of these, 76 were put inside W H Smith stores, yet many customers complained that the post office was often crammed at the back of overcrowded shops or even placed upstairs, making it difficult for disabled customers to use the remaining services, and a number of staff who transferred to W H Smith soon found themselves being made redundant.

I have to declare an interest here. The Crown Post Office in Paisley is one of the ones which is earmarked for “transformation” into a franchise.

Both members of the public and myself share great concerns over this planned change.

My office organised a public meeting in Paisley where we invited along representatives from the Post Office and the CWU to explain their positions, and although I was chairing the meeting, I was genuinely taken aback by the total lack of information the Post Office could provide.

When we asked basic questions around the figures that are being used to justify the move (such as average footfall, accessibility, whether the office was current making a profit or a loss and if so how much?) we were met with a brick wall under the guise of: “I’m can’t say – that’s commercially sensitive information.

”Within the meeting, what began as deep concern turned to palpable anger as valid question after question and point after point was completely ignored or undermined.

That said, I must commend the fact that the two representatives from the Post Office came along and were nothing but professional, and were simply doing the job they were sent to do. 

To put some perspective as to how ludicrous this move is (based on the information we have) I must debunk some of the reasons given for the move.

We are being told that the proposed move to WH Smith is to save the Post Office much-needed money, and yet it was only between May and September 2014 that the current office received a full refurbishment.

We are told there will be no detriment to the quality of access when the Post Office moves. However, the new proposed unit in the back of the WH Smith on Paisley High Street is hidden behind self-service machines and there appear to be no obvious straight lines between the store entrance and the post office which will cause problems for customers with restricted mobility.

 The current Office provides the full range of services. We were told that the services on offer will remain mainly the same.

However, under the current proposals, customers requiring the digital application services will be forced to travel over nine miles into Glasgow.

This may not seem a great distance for some people, but for the elderly and the vulnerable, and asylum seekers with no income,  it is a great distance. Finally, what is to become of the staff?

At the time of the announcement there were 15 staff. Since then, one person has left and not been replaced, and another has been told their role will be disappearing. Will the remainder become WH Smith employees? Will they be paid at their current level?

Or will they slowly be phased out and replaced with inexperienced people willing to work for the minimum wage on a zero-hours contract?

The Post Office staff are extremely experienced workers that I could not speak more highly of, with incredible knowledge of the Post Office and can provide invaluable help with official documents and advice.

Are we to allow this service to be eroded and privatised further because of the neo-liberal conservative agenda that has already ruined so many industries and services in Scotland?

The other Crown office in Scotland to be franchised is in Kilmarnock, so there is the over arching question of where this leaves Crown Post Offices in Scotland as a whole.Fundamentally, not only the post office faces an uncertain future: the staff, the public, and the quality of services do too.

That’s a future we should not accept quietly or without any input.

So I would ask, and urge, people to do all they can to help save Paisley Post Office and stop this Tory trend of privatisation and austerity no matter what harm is caused.

The consultation process is open until June 15.