In late 2013 when I left the public “consultation” meeting at the Rose & Crown hotel I came away with the opinion that the deal was not done but it would require significant public and political action to make the difference. Local UKIP Councillors – the only organised opposition politicians – had publicly supported campaign to keep the Post Office but with little political experience (and on a political platform their party opposed nationally) it was no surprise they had caused but a ripple of antagonism. It is on occasions like this that you truly realise the impotency of not having any Councillors and therefore no voice. Tories had largely sought to position themselves as neutral – some claiming it was a business decision for Royal Mail alone to make – but it was clear a few were relishing this political act.
The Post Office should be required to provide a Crown Post Office in each town to GUARANTEE access to services to all – and this should not be subject to profitability. Of course effort should be made to reduce costs, make best use of technology, and promote new business opportunities but the basic business model should be serving community – and Government should make this part of their delivery means across all areas of contact with the public. It is understood that there was some attempt by local authorities to help reduce rental but I’m persuaded politics played a role in the final decision. I believe that the Post Office is being put under pressure to reduce costs, and increase profits, so that after the next general election it might be privatised, as the Royal Mail has this year. With a Tory Govt elected I wonder where this might lead to further privatisation of Royal Mail.
I do not have any issues with the Ray and the folks at Etcetera. These are decent people who believe they are doing the right thing BECAUSE of what the Post Office have decided. Ray was stepping in to ensure that not all footfall would be lost from this end of the town – and I certainly understand this concern. The new shop has provided disabled access, and the contract ensures that the same level of service currently provided but a contract can be negotiated, it can be ended. A final concern of course is what will happen should Etcetera close or change hands.
Yet again local Tory politicians have taken a political decision – doing nothing is an act – which may impact on an already economically depressed town centre. There might be commercial merit for Post Office but this was a strategic decision which should have also included wider consideration of the stakeholder impact – and our politicians should have ensured this happened.
The failure to of voters challenge the Tories and hold them accountable, to elect sufficient opposition to make difference, is holding our town back. The still handsome former Post Office building could be a metaphor for our town – a glorious past, void of ambition and long waiting for new purpose….opportunity or decay? Beset by self-doubt and increasing bitterness why do we allow complacency and surrender to gain political favour over hope and ambition?