The recent announcements that seven local post offices will be closing in the restructuring of Post Offices throughout the Capital will have a devastating impact on local communities. Those that affect Haringey include Highgate High Street, 100 Alexandra Park Road (N10), Ferme Park Road (N4), Salisbury Road (N22), 89 Weston Park (N8), Page Green (N15) and 434 West Green Road (N15).
Post offices have long been at the centre of communities and their closure will be acutely felt by our vulnerable residents. Many of these vulnerable clients rely on welfare rights, including older people and the disabled. They see their local Post Office as a lifeline and a place where they can collect their entitlements.
They also use Post Offices to catch up with friends, so that they provide a platform where some form of human contact can still take place in an increasingly mechanized and information technology-heavy society.
Additionally, those who are financially and socially excluded within local communities have always been able to interface through Post Offices with Central Government departments like the Department for Work and Pensions.
But whilst the Government says it wants social inclusion, the actions it has taken in recent years have slowly deprived the Post Office of business. And by doing that, it has pushed the very individuals that it purports to assist to the margins of society.
Yet Labour councillors talk about saving Post Offices when the very Government they represent has been eroding the roots of the Post Office Network. I do therefore sincerely hope that they can lobby against these cuts and I welcome the letter from Cllr Meehan to the Consultation Team of Post Office Ltd stating that, “this Council voted unanimously at a meeting of Full Council on Monday 18th February to oppose the Post Office Ltd’s plans to close six branches in the Borough.” I hope that he continues to voice our opposition when he meets the relevant Government Ministers.
The current situation with Royal Mail has come about because it has been starved of investment by successive Governments : it needs at least £2 billion to invest in automation to remain competitive. Under the last Conservative Government, 3,500 local post offices were closed and under Labour another 4,000 have closed, hitting rural –and now urban – communities across the country.
Post Office Ltd are now implementing the new set of cuts through a ‘Network Change Programme’ that will see up to 2,500 branches close out of a network of 14,300. This means that nearly 20% of all branches in London will close.
As the ward councillor for Noel Park in Wood Green, I can tell you that the closure of the Salisbury Road post office will mean that residents in the area will have to travel to the main Post Office on the High Road, adding another half a mile on the journey to post something or to use other services on offer.
People with mobility problems will be affected and the already-long waiting times at the High Road Post Office will grow . The work-load there will increase and, more than ever, we will lose that personal touch in service delivery as we become seen through the counter grille as units to be served and moved on as fast as possible.
This Government talks about building and sustaining local communities. But between Post Office Ltd and the undermining actions of this Government it seems they are actually ripping the heart out of local communities.