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Britain's disappearing Post Offices

January 3, 2008 6:00 PM
Bitterne Park Triangle Post Office - one more victim of Government policy

Bitterne Park Triangle Post Office - one more victim of Government policy

Last year the Government announced their grand plan to save the Post Office from making large losses, is to shut about 2,500 more offices!! Well now they have published the list, the good news for us is that West End is not affected, but in Eastleigh Borough folk in Bishopstoke, Chandler's Ford, Hamble and Netley are not so lucky as their Offices are earmarked for closure.

Last time the closure programme was called the "Post Office Urban Network Reinvention Programme" this time the title is just as false, it's the "Network Change Programme", whereas a more apt title would be simply "The Post Office closure programme" or given that about 1 in 5 Post Offices are affected maybe "The Post Office Network Destruction Initiative".

The axe missed West End due the excellent use of the Post Office by the community. However locally in Southampton the people in the neighbouring Bitterne Park area are not so fortunate. Their Post Office in Oaktree Road is 'earmarked' for closure. Post Offices are initially earmarked for closure prior to a period of consultation and in theory only after the public consultation will a 'final' decision be made.

However the plans to consult the public on the closure of 2,500 Post Offices have been labelled a sham by the Liberal Democrats after it was revealed that the Post Office has no dedicated phone line for consultation responses and the Government has no one dedicated to oversee it, as they say it is up to the Post Office.

Speaking on this matter in December Liberal Democrat spokesman Lembit Öpik MP said :-

"This is a sham that has turned into a shambles. I'm very concerned that this isn't a proper consultation"

In Eastleigh we are doing what we can on the Borough Council to ensure at least a proper consultation is held here, Council leader Keith House said :-

"Any decision should ultimately reflect local opinion and the needs of the communities. To ensure that local views are taken into account in any final decision we are seeking early meetings with the Postmaster concerned, with the Post Office itself and Postwatch, the independent watchdog for postal services in the UK."

The real problem is that a closed branch doesn't only mean the loss of services to local people, it has knock on effects that too often include losses at other nearby shops and longer queues at the remaining Post Offices.

Worst still, closure doesn't even help to address the main issue of loss-making Post Offices. History has taught us that if we can't stop this latest round of Post Office closures, then another round of closures will be along before long. Under the last Tory and this government about 7,500 Post Office have been shut even before publication of this 2,500 closure list.

Only the Liberal Democrats have a real plan to help and it is summed up in this three step approach :-

  • 1. Invest £2 billion in post office network - open new branches where needed.
  • 2. Free the Post Office from Royal Mail restrictions to let it develop new business.
  • 3. A new legal requirement for the Government to maintain the local Post Office network.

To discover more about the Liberal Democrat plans to rescue the Post Office visit :-

www.libdems.org.uk/postoffices