As you may have seen in the Echo, the Royal Mail plans to close 5 Post Offices in the Borough - at Hopetown, Cleveland Terrace and Pierremont Crescent in the urban area and Heighington and Hurworth Place in the rural area. You may have also seen (on an, ahem, less well-informed site) that the Council did not oppose the closures - as you might expect, I've checked this out, and been told this by the Chief Executive;
We've done some more back tracking of correspondence from the Post Office about the change programme. We can find no record of having been forewarned or consulted previously on the Post Offices earmarked for closure in the papers received last week. We have had correspondence inviting general views and I've got a reply here from March last year that says that Darlington BC would not support PO closures.
Towards the end of October last year we were invited to let the post office know of plans for regeneration schemes, bus/road schemes that could affect Post Offices in our area. It was an information request, not consultation on potential closures. It is not easy to see how the regeneration plans we have would have impacted upon the closure proposals we've received.
I conclude that the Council has responded to previous consultation programmes from the Post Office, has expressed the view that closures should be avoided, but has also only last week received detail on the latest programme and the timetable for this to be responded to.
So that's that cleared up. And I'm pleased to tell you that local Labour ward councillors Brian Thistlethwaite and Paul Baldwin in Cockerton East, and Marian Swift and Steve Harker in Pierremont are campaigning against the closures as they affect their wards. But how can we all make our voices heard? A good place to start is the petition organised by Sue Allan-Hooks on the No. 10 website which reads as follows;
The Royal Mail plans to close 37 Post Office branches in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire as part of a nationwide money saving review of the network. Many people will be adversely effected including the elderly, the disabled, those facing financial hardship and those without a bank account. Please show your support for your local Post Office branch by signing this petition by 26 March 2008.
You can sign the petition by clicking here.