Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Supporting our Post Offices

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.


Mike Barker said...

Why let the facts get in the way of a good story, Nick?

Thanks for the link to my blog. However, if you actually read it, you will see that nowhere do I say that "the Council did not oppose the closures".

What I wrote was: "Darlington Council failed to respond to Post Office requests for stakeholders to make representations in advance of the publication of the document, though seven other neighbouring Councils did." This is true. The Chief Executive says so in her letter to you.

In the Post Office document it says: "We have asked all local authorities within the Cleveland with South Durham and Richmond area to provide information and views relevant to the factors which we are able to consider." Darlington BC did not do so.

Furthermore, Darlington Lib Dems wrote to the Chief Executive in October 2007 asking her whether the Council would be taking steps to protect local post offices, in the interests of vulnerable local residents. No reply was received until a reminder was sent in January.

We understand our original communication was passed on to some other officer, who did not respond to it.

Also, when Cllr Thistlethwaite announced to Cabinet that three post offices were to close, not only did he forget about the two village post offices, but the Leader of the Council knew nothing about it.

The point I have made is that the Council has not treated this matter with any urgency, nor made any preparations for the inevitable closure list and the need to campaign on a united front against it.

Your own blog reports only on what Labour Councillors are doing, not the good work being done by Conservative and Lib Dem Councillors on this matter. There is still no sign of the ruling group leading a Council campaign on this issue.

Finally, it is your Labour Government which is responsible for creating the situation in which the state-owned post office has decided to continue to close local branches.

To quote from Vince Cable's website:
"The post office network is losing money. Individual post offices are losing customers to the banks as the government presses ahead with its plans to pay benefits and pensions into bank accounts. The government has soft-pedalled the alternative Post Office Card Account and the doziness of Post Office management over many years has meant that alternative sources of income - like bill payment (as in Australia) or sales of private pensions and insurance - have not progressed. In numerous debates and questions in parliament in the last few years I have made the case for the strengthening Post Office network but the closure programmes goes on."

Try as you might, Nick, you can't hide the responsibility of the Labour Government for this state of affairs behind an erroneous report of my blog.

I guess I should be pleased that your repeated digs at the Lib Dems indicate that our criticism of the ruling group on this and other issues is hitting home.

Ian White, said...

Firstly I think this is deplorable the PO is a life saver for the elderly and this should be fought all the way.

Secondly the PO in Croft/Hurworth is not only the PO but the only shop at all in Hurworth Place which will close as a result and should be doubly supported by DBC as according to the postmistress it has been directly affected by the closure of Linden Court,(ie the loss of those 40 residents collecting pensions etc), a "short" closure that is now at a year and a half.

Another DBC cash cow that has gone past target and caused problems not only to those evicted residents but now we are seeing the knock on effect!

John Williams should personally come out here and campaign for it to be saved, its time he put his love of being in the press to good use and set off a Borough wide petition/campaign.

Where's of Phil Taylor or new MP haven't seen him out here since he got elected? Sorry to clarify havent seen him out here at all!!

Ian White, Cllr. Hurworth Place.

Martin said...


You and your leader say "...the doziness of Post Office management over many years has meant that alternative sources of income - like bill payment (as in Australia) or sales of private pensions and insurance - have not progressed."

That can't be right. My car is currently insured with the Post Office. They were the cheapest quote for me on!

Anonymous said...

Cant help but laugh at your attempts to blame everyone but you and your party Cllr Wallis for this Labour mess. On your own blog. Under the section "About me" it reads Member of Labour's National Policy Forum and the Party's Regional Board (cant get much closer to whats happening than that with a Labour goverment in power or dont such important issues get discussed!) . One can only assume when you help formulate policy your selective hearing kicks in or and most likely you only attend for the food.

Ian White, said...


Thought you would of included the online opinion e-mail

or it can be linked off

Be quick it has to be in by Feb 2nd

Mike Cartwright - said...

Interesting comments from both Mike Barker and Nick.

I wonder if you have both visited
In the "Campaign" section you will find a page entitled "Keep our Post Offices open".

Perhaps you would both like to sign the petition? (as you both agree that Post Offices are a valuable resource and should be retained).

PS. Nick, I'm almost hurt that you didn't include a link to
both of which contain information about the proposed closures.

ian White, said...

Don't click the links above they are spam!

Aeres said...

Presumably, this all boils down to the remit given to the Royal Mail board by its only shareholder (ie. the government).

If it is to be run as a profit making company (which I assume is the intention) then you can hardly blame the board when they want to cut costs. It's what every other company in the private sector would do so why should Royal Mail be any different?

If it is to be ran as a subsidised service of course then this is a different matter. It seems to me though that this doesn't appear to be the case at the present time.

Ian White, said...

Once again both above links by Toad-jam are spam!! AVOID