Ruffley Condemns Powergen's Withdrawal of Pre-Payment Electricity Tokens from Post Offices

Tuesday, 16 March, 2004

David Ruffley has received calls from concerned constituents following Powergen's announcement that they are withdrawing electricity pre-payment tokens from sale in post offices from 1 April. This decision has caused alarm among Sub-postmasters and Powergen's customers alike.

People who rely on these pre-payment tokens will now have to buy them elsewhere and for many village residents where the post office is the only local retail outlet this will mean travelling into Stowmarket or Bury St Edmunds.

It also means less business for our local post offices. One constituency sub-postmaster told David that his weekly sales of electricity tokens is approximately £1,000 representing, on average, 200 people spending £5, the majority of that business being with Powergen.

David Ruffley has taken this up with Dr Paul Golby, Chief Executive of Powergen, on behalf of his constituents. The full text of his letter is below.

David said: 'Not only is this yet another nail in the coffin of sub-post offices but it will cause great inconvenience and extra expense for my constituents who pre-pay for their electricity with tokens. In villages such as Bacton where the post office is also the only shop people will be forced to travel some distance to buy their tokens. In turn this will take trade away from village post offices which are already suffering as a result of the Government's decision to end cash payment of benefits through post offices.'

Letter to Powergen:

Re: Withdrawal of Electricity Pre-Payment Tokens from Post Offices

I have been contacted by Sub-Postmasters and Sub-Postmistresses in my constituency who are extremely concerned at the decision by Powergen to withdraw from sale electricity pre-payment tokens from all post offices from 1 April.

This will be a huge blow for my constituents on low incomes, including many pensioners, who will now have to travel to alternative retail outlets to buy these tokens.

In my Bury St Edmunds constituency there are many villages where the local post office is the only shop. Local residents needing to purchase electricity tokens will, after 1 April, have to travel to another village or town to purchase their tokens. In rural areas such as Suffolk where public transport is sparse, this will not only involve expense but also considerable inconvenience. I am told by sub-postmasters that many people spend an average of only £5 per week on electricity tokens so to have to travel to buy them will effectively increase the cost enormously.

It is suggested that customers may be able to transfer to your budget scheme but for many people this is not an option or a system that they would wish to change to.

I would like you to provide me with a list of outlets within my constituency where electricity pre-payment tokens can be purchased after 1 April. In particular, for villages such as Bacton, Old Newton, Rattlesden and Great Finborough, where the village post office is the only retail outlet, please supply me with the name and address of the nearest outlet. I would also like to know if you will be supplying your customers with this information and, if so, when. When I spoke to one of my local sub-postmistresses at the end of last week, I was told that no formal notification to customers of the withdrawal of these tokens had been made.

Not only will the withdrawal of these tokens affect my constituents who are your customers but it will also be another nail in the coffin for sub-post offices.