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North Devon Journal – ‘P.O. closures: ‘elderly and disbaled suffer most’

June 1, 2008

image - north devon journal logo

More from the local press about closures in the area. This article focuses on how the closures will affect the vulnerable in rural communities. The Post Office is already facing a challenge nationally over the legality of the closure programme because of a possible breach of disability legislation.

On to local matters:

Following the announcement that Buckland Brewer post office could be downgraded, a public meeting is being staged in the village hall on Tuesday.

Tim Nickolls, Post Office Ltd’s network development manager for Devon, will be there.

Larry Davies of Buckland Brewer Village Committee and Supporters of the Post Office, said: “We are in the process of carrying out a mail shot of every house in the village and we are expecting a big turnout. Feelings are running high.”

Let’s give Mr Nickolls a polite welcome, but also show him that we are determined to fight this closure.

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‘Village Scene’ – Message from Keith Horwell

June 1, 2008

limage - village scene magazine cover

Our shop owner, Keith Horwel, wrote for the Village Scene magazine this month. Keith urges every resident to get behind the campaign to save the post office. Although it is a tough hill to climb, if we can deploy our resources, arguing persuasively and armed with facts, then we may be able to turn this around.

Don’t forget, the public meeting is this Tuesday, 3 June, at 7.00 pm in the Village Hall. If you can’t be there, please contact me – details in the right hand margin – and I will pass on your views.

Here is a full extract of what Keith said:

Post Office Closure

After months of waiting in an uncomfortable limbo we have finally received the dreaded ‘black spot’ from Post Office Ltd and have been given a proposed closure date of August 19. Although not altogether a surprise we had hoped for better, the encouragement to re-open we received from Post Office Ltd just twenty months ago led us to believe that we may have a future. Sadly we did not factor in the mathematical model that was used to decide which offices are to be axed or the rather cynical interpretation of that data by wonderfully named Network Change Team. I truly believe that stronger offices are being closed now in the belief that the weaker ones left behind will disappear through natural wastage. I know of several Sub postmasters who were eager to receive the closure notices so that they could walk away with some compensation from their failing businesses, these offices will soon close leaving the network even more sparse in rural areas and make a mockery of the access criteria on which the current wave of closures has supposedly been based. The Post Office is either being extremely deceitful or incredibly stupid, I’m inclined to think it’s a mixture of both.

The implications for Buckland Brewer are serious, it’s no secret that our business has struggled s since the day we opened but we’ve stuck with it, trade has slowly improved and we have remained optimistic about making a go of things as the village grows. I’m afraid that particular bubble has now burst. We will be unable to continue trading without the Post Office and it is inevitable that the shop will have to close. At the time of writing we are unable to put a date to this, it’s unlikely to be immediate, but we need to act sooner rather than later, and you can expect the shutters to come down within a matter of months.

The game is not quite up yet, there remains a six week consultation period in which we can make submissions to have the decision reversed. This process needs careful handling, Post Office Ltd have made it clear that the appeals process is not a referendum, it’s no good just saying that you don’t want the office to close, reasons have to be given and these need to be the right reasons. We need to fight them on their own ground using their rules, things like access to services (particularly for the elderly or infirm), importance to local business, public transport, social consequences and the impact on customers and the local economy. What about the carbon footprint left behind by those countless trips to Bideford We will not be sending a petition, in their wisdom Post Office Ltd has decided that, no matter how many signatures are attached, a petition is only one complaint. We need more than that. Much more.

To carry this off we need every resident of Buckland Brewer and the surrounding area to give voice to their concerns as individuals. Say what the Post Office and shop mean to you and your family, express your outrage, make some noise! I’m sure that many of you will have your own ideas, but if you should need some help or advice in making your point please speak to Anne, Karis or myself and we’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Having studied results in other areas which have already been through the closure programme I would have to say that we are in for quite a battle. As an example, in the whole of Leicester. Northampton and Rutland only three decisions were overturned, BUT these successes were based on STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT and sound argument. Are we all up for the tight’? I’d like to think so. Anne and I will be making our own lengthy submission within the next couple of weeks as well as lobbying support from Torridge and Devon County Council, various politicians, and any media representatives we can catch, we’re not going to give up easily. Buckland Brewer has lost both shop and Post Office before, it’s very much in your hands to see that it does not happen again. We are in the process of trying to arrange public meeting with representatives of the Network Change Team. If we are successful in this PLEASE COME, fill the hall, think up your questions before you go, tell them the problems that will be caused by their actions, make them uncomfortable and express your concerns. There is no need to panic, we have until 30 June to make our submissions and it would be better to think it through fully before putting pen to paper. Details of addresses and websites are available in the shop.

If anyone would like to talk to me about any of the above, I’m usually in the shop Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings, you can email me at shop [at] sheb [dot] eclipse [dot] co [dot] uk

The ‘Village Scene’ is available from the shop. Keith also stocks a wide range of local produce. Parkham cheddar is my favourite!

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Letter from Geoffrey Cox

May 30, 2008

Last weekend, in a flurry of activity, I left comments on Geoffrey Cox’s website.

Yesterday, I received a reply, which is reproduced in full below.

Proposed Post Office Closures

Thank you very much for your letter about the proposed reduction in services at your local Post Office.

I could not agree with you more about the necessity of maintaining a Post Office in Buckland Brewer and indeed all our local villages.

I have pledged to do everything I can to try and halt the closure of sub-post offices in Torridge & West Devon. In 2006 I organised and delivered a petition of many thousands of signatures to Downing Street and presented it in the House of Commons to the Speaker. I was a strong supporter of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters’ campaign and I have also joined the Conservative Parliamentary Enterprise Group Commission on High Street Shops. Further information can be found on my website at http://www.geoffreycox.co.uk

I will continue to fight for our Post Offices during this period of consultation and I shall pass on your comments to the Post Office’s consultation team.

In my view, this is the best way in which people can help save their Post Office. It is true that elsewhere in the country, the experience of the Post Office’s consultations has not been good and a few branches only have been saved. Yet, the first justification that the Post Office Limited has used for refusing to contemplate keeping a sub-post office open has been the lack of public response to the consultation.

It is vital that local people should get involved. Many of the decisions to close individual post offices are unexpected, even bizarre. We have to make informed and relevant arguments for the preservation of the threatened branches.

Thank you once again for making me aware of your views.

Yours sincerely
Geoffrey Cox, O.C., M.P.

I’d like to keep this site and the campaign free from party politics. I’m please that Mr Cox responded quickly. However, he didn’t say much more than I thought he would and this looks very much like a form letter.

In reality, Cox has little or no power to change the Post Office’s decision. He’s the wrong party, not that it has helped campaigners in the right constituencies.

Nevertheless, his office can provide guidance on how we take forward the campaign. That is vital.

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Geoffrey Cox MP – “Save our post offices”

May 26, 2008

Post Office - heart of the community

Our local MP, Geoffrey Cox, is behind the campaign to save rural post offices from closure. He has dedicated part of his website to the campaign.

Whilst the Buckland Brewer post office supporters will want to remain out of party politics, it is very encouraging that our local MP supports our cause.

A difficult aspect of the closure programme is that it can have the effect of pitting one rural community against another. I am sure that Mr Cox has had contact from every village threatened by the closure programme.

I believe that there is a strong case to keep our post office open. However, success in this campaign could be at the expense of another village’s post office.

Government and the Post Office have made clear that an organisation losing £4 million a week (though I feel that we need to return to the veracity of this claim) cannot continue to function in a competitive commercial market. Closures are part of the restructuring process. And, nothing looks likely to stop the closure programme, unless a beleaguered government sees this as a vote winner.

So, our campaign is focused on Buckland Brewer. I am sure that Mr Cox will fight to keep every post office open or at least mitigate the effects of closure where the evidence is overwhelming.

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Devon County Council supports rural post office

May 25, 2008

Devon County Council

From the North Devon Gazette website:

Devon County Council has said it deplores the scale of the post office closures and outreach services that were announced by Post Office Limited this week.

Councillor Brian Berman, the council’s Executive Member for Communities… [said]: “The county council confirms its willingness to invest in achieving sustainable post office services for the affected communities.”

As a priority, the council would like to see post office services retained or enhanced:

– In areas where growth in the size of communities is planned or likely.

– Where there are high levels of deprivation and where the loss of a post office could further disadvantage vulnerable people.

– Where the closure would threaten the viability of the only shop in the community, an associated business or other local businesses.

– Where closure will lead to a significant increase in road journeys to access post office services.

As our campaign will make clear, Buckland Brewer ticks all these boxes.

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More press coverage

May 25, 2008

Mopping up some of the press coverage of Devon closures from last week:


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Post office closures challenged

May 25, 2008

image - disabled access sign

A disabled woman in Sussex has challenged the Post Office’s nationwide closure programme. Her legal challenge, which will be heard by the High Court, is based upon the Disabilities Discrimination Act. Disability campaigners have argued that the closure programme violates the law because it discriminates against the disabled.

This is a narrow point of law and probably will not save every post office threatened with closure. But, it does show that campaigning is not a fruitless cause.

BBC News – Disabled women to challenge closure decision