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The morning after the night before

June 4, 2008

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A packed meeting last night heard why the Post Office wants to close our post office, why parishioners believe the post office is essential and what we might be able to do to save it.

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When I get time, I will post my thoughts on an emotional evening. Full credit goes to Adam Symons for chairing, panel members, Keith, Larry and all those that helped put the meeting together, the Methodist hall for hosting an overflow crowd, but – most of all – the good people of Buckland Brewer for turning up and expressing their views in a cogent and responsible way.

Time will tell if we can persuade the Post Office that the proposed closure is wrong headed. There is plenty of good evidence as we heard last night. Let’s share our views.

If you are new to this site, please use the comments link at the bottom of this post to express your views. I have set this site up as a community resource.

[Edit: comments are moderated by a real human being to limit spam comments. It may, therefore, take a little time before your comment appears. Thanks for your patience.]

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3 comments

  1. I’d like to add to what Pete has already said. Obviously thanks all round, it was extraordinary to see so many people choosing to spend their spare time helping our fight, a little surprising, and Anne I were both moved by the support.
    The meeting itself was very interesting, having already met with Tim Nickolls I was fully prepared for the stone wall and the shortage of meaningful answers. It seems that the information we really need to launch a powerful defence is not going to be available to us and we will have to fight on their terms, on a playing field that is far fron true. How nice it would be to fathom their mysterious mathematical model and be able to challenge the data, I’m personally mystified as to how some offices which will remain in the network have survived while ours is to close, no matter which angle you view it from, there appears to be no sane reasoning behind it. Having said, that we gathered some useful information, the statistical data from the parish survey may well be a source of further gems and will warrant a long hard look.
    The other point, subtly made, from John Baverstock of Postwatch about the additional business that will be transacted in an already over busy Bideford office is also worth pursuing. I don’t get out much, but I will try to photograph existing queues in Bideford and this should enable us to present a case that the ACTUAL branch that people would be forced to use will be unable to cope with the additional influx. Food for further thought.
    Without wishing to be negative, it may be time for me to pop one particular bubble. I do not think that any amount of additional trade across the Post Office counter, now or in our projections of future activity, will make any difference whatsoever. I say this because I know just how much business we transact in Shebbear, it’s roughly one customer visit every 5 minutes and increasing. The fact that many of our Shebbear customers perform multiple transactions means that our office is pretty much constantly busy, and they are still closing that branch. Buckland Brewer remains a country mile or two behind and we will not do enough business to satisfy the Post Office. We therefore need to tread a different path. If the shop is to survive without the Post Office the answer is much more straightforward, we need to consistently take another £1500 per week to break even. A small profit would be nice, but hey, I’m looking at losing a shed load of cash if things go wrong, so evens are ok with me.
    Last night we defined three areas to concentrate on.
    Firstly, have POL interpreted their brief correctly, no matter how flawed that brief may have been? Have they met their own criteria for Network Change. Difficult to challenge in some areas, but definitely stuff to look at.
    Secondly, what are the social consequences of the proposals? We know that those are pretty dire for some members of the community and this is an area that warrants further investigation. It wil be done.
    Third, is the search for any new data. Is there anything that POL have missed? Has anything changed? From my side of the counter the answer is yes. I do know of some things they have not taken into account and will present those in my own submission. There must be more, and these need to be found by the community in Buckland Brewer. If something comes to you, write it down, tell someone, put it on the blog, paint it in the road, but don’t forget. The smallest things can tilt this process, so lets include everything.
    The next stage comes on June 18th when we will meet again with Humphrey Temperley from Devon County Council. That date is significant because it is then that Devon CC will have decided on their strategy in respect of Network Change. I know that they are very concerned about our case and I understand that we are one of the priority branches being reviewed. I clearly can’t make any promises but I remain hopeful that something will come of it. Quite what form any help from the county will take is anyone’s guess.

    Finally, for those of you who stayed to the end of the meeting last night, I would like to point out that some comments made by Cllr Hicks were factually incorrect, and inappropriate. I have written to Cllr Hicks to point this out in the strongest possible terms. Should anyone require any financial information about our business in Buckland Brewer for legitimate purposes I will be happy to share any details. I’d rather provide these willingly than have them guessed at by someone who has hitherto shown no interest in our endeavours.


  2. thanks Keith

    just a couple of points whilst they are in my head:

    – publicity events: I know some people were frustrated that all that was being suggested was to write letters. From my experience, it is facts rather than emotion that makes the case. Events are useful to raise awareness and give those involved the impression that they are making a difference. However, speaking as a former faceless bureaucrat, the Post Office will not be moved by marches on Abbotsham or Bideford. That said, I don’t think residents should be deterred from diverting anger into action. It would need considerable planning and needs to happen soon – preferably before the Monday/Tuesday print deadlines for the Journal/Gazette and on a weekday to catch the TV news. A march would need clearance from the police and need dedicated marshals for safety reasons.

    – data: crucial. I’m going to tap a few people at work for sources. The ONS database is huge, but a real pain in the neck to find what you need. We need comparisons with the rest of England, Devon, Torridge, especially on age profile, those on benefits, deprivation index etc.


  3. As one of those who suggested we ‘do’ something, I would like to comment. As has been suggested elsewhere, we are being forced into the invidious position of competing with the 82 other post offices that are earmarked for closure. Judging by the figures from other counties we need to present a better case/write more MEANINGFUL letters/make more of a nusiance of ourselves than at least 80 of the other villages, all of whom will feel as strongly as we do.

    We have to face the fact that many people are not going to write letters at all, especially if the only approach is a mailshot, unaccompanied by a personal approach. There needs to be offers of help with composing these letters (not a standard letter as these carry far less weight)and a direct personal approach to all residents. We need to point out to people who never use the shop/post office that the value of their property will decrease if the shop closes. Could we have volunteers outside the shop (when it isn’t raining!) armed with envelopes/stamps/lap tops/list of salient points getting people, who have not already written, to do so there and then, instead of putting it off?

    I believe well directed emotion can have an impact – and it is emotion that generates media coverage. The other 82 villages will be writing letters, yes we need to make sure ours are factual and well presented (which is why we have to offer help to those who are struggling to find something relevant to write) but we have to make our campaign stand out from the other 82 and draw attention to such issues as, for example, the impracticality of us using Bideford as an alternative. I believe there is mileage in Councillor Snetzler’s suggestion that as many people as possible descend on Bideford post office, preferably with non-standard transactions that will take time, ideally on pension day – maybe we should go by bus and cause overcrowding on the bus network at the same time.

    Maybe in this way we could encourage regular users of Bideford post office to write letters in support of our campaign when they see how difficult life will be for them with more customers using their outlet. The gentleman from Postwatch hinted that to do something such as this in concert with the East the Water campaigners may be to our mutual benefit.

    I agree that crazy stunts are no substitute for lucid reasoned arguement based on relevant facts but they can draw attention to depth of feeling, which in itself is relevant. If the powers that be believe no one cares enough to make a noise then they will look to the other 82 villages where they do.

    If we are going to go down, let us at least go down fighting.

    Janet Few



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