Following a meeting with Post Office senior management to feed back residents' concerns, Jo McCarron has now written to the Post Office's Regional Network Manager objecting to plans to close the New Cheltenham Post Office and move it to the other side of Lees Hill. In the letter, Jo has restated the request she and the local Labour councillors made at the meeting to extend the consultation period while the Post Office looks at proposals for a viable alternative to the planned move.
Here is Jo's full letter to the Post Office's Regional Network Manager...
Jo McCarron, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Kingswood
30th April 2014
Dear Julia Marwood,
I am writing to object to the proposed closure of the Post Office on New Cheltenham Rd which our local Labour Party, alongside local people have been campaigning to save.
As Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Kingswood, I am out with our team speaking to hundreds of people each week. We have not found a single household in the local area who supports the proposed move.
Whilst we were pleased to have an opportunity to meet with your liaison officers we left the meeting concerned that the voice of local people is not being heard, with no compromise on an extension of the consultation while a practical solution for the community is found.
We fully accept that changes sometimes need to be made for the successful running of a business and that there are some challenges in delivering within the remit of current rules. However, we believe there is room for manoeuvre if the Post Office would just pause to consider alternatives. The current post master has been serving your company for over three years, and while we understand that you are rightly apprehensive about employing people on temporary contracts, it is clear that this particular person shows 100% dedication and is not about to walk out on any contract. I am told he is putting a proposal forward to find a solution so that he can be employed on a permanent contract, but needs more time in the consultation to do this. It would be in the interests of the local community to allow time for such an opportunity.
As stated at the meeting, a significant number of those who will be affected by the changes are elderly. There is a large amount of sheltered housing and I have met lots of elderly and vulnerable feel very concerned about the prospect of losing their local branch. For many it is a place they go which helps prevent them from otherwise becoming entirely isolated. Moving the facility a long distance away, up a steep hill, with poor public transport access would, we think, be a clear breach of the Post Office’s own mission statement to “place [the Post Office] firmly at the heart of the community.”
We are calling upon you to extend the consultation period so that interested parties can put to you their proposals and other local shops within the locality are contacted about the opportunity.
In our view your company has not adequately advertised the opportunity in the local area. Advertising on the Post Office Website is not good enough – and we believe you could have made a concerted effort, in the interest of the community, to have contacted businesses in the area to make them aware of the opportunity. In particular, we believe you could have at least written to the current post master to inform him. Therefore, in our view you have not sought to put the local community first. I respectfully request, by Freedom of Information, which businesses in the constituency of Kingswood (if any) were approached by your company to alert them to the opportunity.
Our local councillors and community leaders have worked hard to improve community cohesion. The Post Office's chief executive, Paula Vennells had publicly said there would be “no more branch closures” and there would be particular emphasis on “protecting community Post Offices”. But this current proposal is hard to reconcile with these statements.
We understand the need to have a post master on a permanent contract – and that this gives security that the post office (in most circumstances) will stay open in the interest of the community. But in this case the proposals would mean the post office not staying open in the interest of the community. In the eyes of local people, their post office is once again under threat of closure.
In summary, I object to the proposal on the following grounds:
- I have consulted with the community, a significant number of them elderly and vulnerable and it is clear that the community do not want the post office to move.
- You will have received numerous letters of objection from the community, community leaders and organisations.
- The new location will be inaccessible to the local community.
- The local community were previously told when the last post office closed that this would replace it, but now that is also in jeopardy.
- The move is against your own mission statement and Chief Executive’s comments.
- The move will not solve the problem of “protecting the community’s interests by supplying a post master on a permanent contract, therefore preventing a sudden closure,” as the new post office would be serving a different community.
- The opportunity for Post Office franchise was inadequately advertised in the local area.
Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Kingswood