Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Post Office Closures - Ladywell safe for now, but 171 others in London threatened

Today sees the start of Royal Mail's consultation on the 'restructuring' of its service in London, which includes proposals to close 171 post offices within the capital. Mr & Mrs Patel of Ladywell Post Office on Algernon Road were concerned that their post office was one of those earmarked for closure and were pleased to find out in the last few days that it isn't currently threatened. However, three other post offices within the borough in Hither Green, Lee and New Cross are. For the complete list of post offices facing closure, see this London Area Plan Proposal on the Royal Mail's website.

I struggle to see how the closure of so many post offices both within London and nationally fits into any kind of government programme on sustainable communities. Local post offices are an essential part of the community and do much more than sell stamps. The closure of so many branches will seriously hurt elderly and vulnerable people, for whom post offices play an important social as well as practical function. Those without a car will be particularly affected, while those with cars will be more likely to drive, rather than walk to their nearest post office increasing pollution and congestion. Yet again, as with the ongoing hospital consultation, no serious consideration seems to have been given to the impact this will have on carbon emissions. And when people do get to the post office they will face even longer queues. Sadly, it is yet another nail in the coffin for many local shopping parades.

The closures are being driven by a combination of factors, but in particular changes to the way Government pays benefits (a lot more is done through banks rather than post offices now, meaning post offices have lost a vital source of income) and the EU drive to liberalise and privatise postal services, despite a Green campaign at the European parliament against the proposals. Both of these have undermined the financial viability of many post offices.

The consultation runs until 2nd April. Views and comments on the proposals should be sent to:
Anita Turner
Network Development Manager
C/o National Consultation Team
Email: consultation@postoffice.co.uk
Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44

Please note that your comments will not be kept confidential unless you expressly ask them to do so by clearly marking them ‘In Confidence’.

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