Nick Herbert denounces post office closures

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has denounced the decision of Post Office Ltd to close the village post offices in Washington and Slindon.

 

The decision was announced today in a news release posted on their website.

It comes despite the intervention of independent watchdog, Postwatch, which called for a "community led facility" at Washington.

The Government has set new access criteria for post offices, with 95 per cent of the total rural population across the UK to be within 3 miles of their nearest post office outlet.

Over the next two years, 2,500 branches will close across the country.  This follows the closure of 4,000 post offices since the Government came to power in 1997 - a quarter of the entire network.

The first Area Plan for Sussex was launched on 13 November 2007, heralding the start of a six-week public consultation that ended on 24 December.  Over 6,600 written responses were received by Post Office Ltd during the consultation period.

In Washington and Slindon, local councillors and residents have been working hard to keep their post offices open.  Both communities submitted formal responses to the public consultation, raising serious concerns about the accessibility of ‘alternative' post office branches.

Nick Herbert also responded formally to oppose the closures.  But the views of the local community have been ignored.

In Washington, residents have been working on a project to open a new community shop in the village, on the former West Sussex Motors site close to the busy A283.  It was hoped that this would house the post office, currently based at The Frankland Arms in London Road. 

In a formal letter of 21 January to the MP Nick Herbert, Sheila Button (Chair, Postwatch South East) said: ‘Postwatch looks forward to Post Office Limited's response to customer and stakeholder requests to develop a community led facility.'

Postwatch have also indicated that they have particular concerns with the closure programme in West Sussex.  They highlight the fact that the county has a significantly higher proportion of elderly residents than the South East and UK as a whole. 

They state that around 20 per cent of the population in West Sussex is over 65, whereas the average for the South East is 16.4 per cent and for England is 15.9 per cent.  These residents are more likely to be disadvantaged by the closure of local post offices.

Nick Herbert commented: "Residents in Washington and Slindon will be bitterly disappointed to learn that their post offices will be closed.

"What is the point of having a consultation if local people are just ignored?  It appears that the Post Office have simply gone through the motions of consulting communities.

"I would like to know if the Post Office has paid any attention to the views of Postwatch on this matter."

Mr Herbert added: "I urge the Post Office to open meaningful discussions with the residents of Slindon on the creation of an outreach service for the village and to work closely with Washington Parish Council on their plans for a community shop.

"These closures are unacceptable.  Post offices are an important public service.  It really damages villages when local facilities like this are withdrawn."

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the Area Plan Decision Booklet published by Post Office Ltd, visit www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

2. The news release from Post Office Ltd announcing the closures can be found at: http://www.news.royalmailgroup.com/news/article.asp?id=2139&brand=Post_Office_network

3. For the website of Postwatch, now part of Consumer Focus, visit http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/.

Joe Coombes