Why another of your Post Offices may be about to close

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Mon Feb 18 23:57:00 GMT 2013

Why another of your Post Offices may be about to 
close: After small branches were cut now the big ones will go too
By Toby Walne, Financial Mail On Sunday
PUBLISHED: 22:18, 16 February 2013 | UPDATED: 11:05, 17 February 2013
Whitstable is famous for its oysters, but the 
picturesque Kent resort may soon lose one of its 
pearls – its Crown post office. It has been 
earmarked for closure along with one in five of 
the flagship branches throughout Britain.
The Post Office plans to cull 70 of the 373 Crown 
branches – the major high street outlets run directly by the Post Office.
This follows the closure of 8,000 sub-post 
offices in towns and villages over the past 
decade. Ten years ago there were about 19,000, now barely 11,500 survive.
The Crown closures are the latest of half a dozen 
such ‘initiatives’ in recent years – though the 
word  closure is never used by the Post Office – 
that have left a trail of broken promises.
The Post Office claims the latest closures are 
part of a ‘transformation’ in which no branch 
will be forced to shut but will instead operate from a shop.
But many of the 30,000 residents of Whitstable 
are not impressed. Anita Rule, 52, of Wheelers 
Oyster Bar, a cafe that has served the town since 
1865, says: ‘Where will they fit this new branch? 
It certainly won’t squeeze into our bar – or 
anywhere else around here that I can imagine. Why 
don’t they stop hiding behind all these weasel 
words and just admit they want to come here and shut the post office.’
Walking though the narrow lanes lined with 
boutique shops it is hard to find where there 
might be another taker for a branch that 
currently has six counters. The Post Office has 
started a six-week ‘consultation’ that began last 
week, but no one here has even heard of the 
latest closure plans let alone been invited to talks.

Follow the campaign against Post Office closures

In a previous closure programme six years ago, 85 
Crown outlets were culled nationwide, with 76 of 
them put inside WH Smith stores. Many customers 
complained that the post office was often crammed 
into the back of overcrowded shops or upstairs so 
disabled customers found it difficult. At the 
time, Post Office managing director Alan Cook 
claimed the changes were necessary to promise a 
‘long-term commitment to safeguard flagship Post 
Offices’ and a pledge to ‘continue to run, and 
invest in, a total of 373 Crown post offices’.
Six years later the closure of Crown branches is 
back on the agenda – while Cook retired with a £1 million bonus.
In Whitstable, accountant Lucie Morris, 28, says: 
‘I can understand why they might put the branch 
into a shop to save money, but why can’t they be 
straight about how services will suffer if they 
are forcing them into a smaller space? The 
existing branch is really convenient and offers 
excellent access to those with mobility difficulties.’
The Post Office claims it is being forced to sell 
to stem £40 million a year losses among Crown 
branches, but claims it will not axe branches 
where alternative partners cannot be found. It 
hopes to attract shopowners who are willing to 
pay for the chance of having a post office inside 
their building in the hope of attracting more business.
Fisherman James Green, 44, who owns the 
Whitstable Oyster Company, fears this business 
model benefits only the Post Office, not 
customers. ‘Our branch always has long queues – 
surely it must be making money,’ he says.
‘The only reason to sell seems to be to boost 
profits as much as it can – squeezing every last 
drop out of us by selling a prime site and 
franchising the business at the expense of a 
vital community service.’ James points out that 
Whitstable sorting office is already earmarked to 
be moved to a nearby Canterbury branch this year to save costs.
The Post Office admits it will close, but it has 
not confirmed a date. ‘This will mean a  14-mile 
round trip to collect undelivered mail,’ he says. 
‘This is not only inconvenient, but it is going 
to be a nightmare for those without their own car.’
The latest ‘transformation’ comes just two years 
after Business Secretary Vince Cable promised a 
£1.34 billion lifeline to ensure the future of the  network.
A key part of this lifeline  initiative included 
turning 2,000 sub-post offices into ‘local’ shops 
that offered more basic services than traditional 
branches. ‘Locals’ get £10,000 to take this 
option. A further 4,000 sub-post office branches 
have been offered as much as £45,000 to be turned 
into ‘main’ post offices. They get more money to 
spruce up premises as they must offer a separate counter.
The remaining branches are simply being left to 
survive as best they can. The Crown post offices 
have not been included in this lifeline initiative.
The Communication Workers Union has hit out at 
‘destructive’ schemes and fears they damage the 
long-term future of the network.
Spokeswoman Sian Jones says: ‘There are no plans 
to help post offices after 2015.’ The union plans 
to ballot members on possible strike action later 
this month to fight the Crown closures.
Jones says: ‘People have been fed lies and broken 
promises for too long. The Post Office can’t even 
admit to closing branches – it never dares use the word.’
A Post Office spokesman told Financial Mail: ‘We 
are undertaking the biggest business 
transformation programme in the history of the Post Office.
‘Our overall investment will maintain the size of 
the network and modernise branches to meet 
customer needs. If no retail partner is found, we 
are committed to maintaining a Crown post office in the area.’

'Reinvention' plan? It’s been more like a decade of disguised decline
2000 At the start of the Millennium there were 
19,000 post offices. The network has suffered a 
gradual decline since its peak of 25,000 due to a 
lack of investment in the branches and infrastructure.
2003 The Post Office launches the ‘urban 
reinvention programme’ – a euphemism for axeing 
3,000 branches in towns and cities. At the same 
time it is made harder for post offices to 
survive with the scrapping of benefits books in 
favour of direct payments using Post Office card 
accounts. Benefits books generated an average 40 per cent of branch revenue.
2006 Post offices lose the right to sell TV 
licences. Postage stamps are also made available 
to be bought and printed out online. Post offices 
already struggling to survive are shut down.
2007 A fresh closure drive  is launched with 
2,500 branches targeted. This time the cuts go 
under the title of ‘Network Change Programme’. 
Most branches are forced to shut after  a 
six-week ‘consultation’ in which the wishes of 
the community and most sub-postmasters are 
ignored. The network of 458 Crown post offices is 
slashed to 373 in an ‘investment programme’ to 
ensure no other Crown branches need  ever close. 
Most end up sharing premises with WH Smith stores.
2010 The Government promises £1.34 billion to 
keep the network going until 2015. This does not 
stop branches closing due to tough economic 
conditions. At least 2,000 branches are put into 
shops and offer only basic services.
2013 The Post Office announces plans to shut one 
in five Crown post offices – to be sold off and 
put inside shops.  At least 70 of the 373 
flagship  high street branches are set to go.  It 
points to a continued decline  of the surviving network of  11,500 branches.
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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered 
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that 
shall not be made known. What I tell you in 
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye 
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.
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