Lib Dems and Post Offices

I couldn’t help notice that the Lib Dems are up to their old trick of pretending to be all things to all people.   The News Shopper report that they’ll be putting down:

a motion against a decision to move post offices to branches of WH Smith.

Laudable stuff perhaps, but I couldn’t help doing a bit of digging and look at what they say nationally:

We further believe branches should be free to enter into business arrangements with other firms on a branch by branch basis. This will require some degree of loosening of central control by Post Office Ltd.

And that’s without looking at what other knots their policies on Royal Mail and the Post Office create for their members.

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About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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17 Responses to Lib Dems and Post Offices

  1. get your facts right says:

    Very poor. You don’t quote from the motion itself, but instead from a newspaper article. Your source about Liberal Democrat policy is from a Labour MP – hardly balanced or accurate.
    The bottom line is that the people who trying to be all things to all people are Lewisham Labour MPs and councillors who support policies that have led to so many Post Offices already closing in this borough, yet claim to be totally outraged.

  2. andrewkbrown says:

    Hello Mark – for it is Cllr Mark Morris who posts as “get your facts right” – not quite sure why you’re being shy when we usually get the full name rank and title at the bottom of your responses on this blog.

    I know you’re bound to get techy about these things, but “very poor”?

    It’s difficult to link to or quote the motion when it doesn’t appear to be in the public domain. At least it’s not currently on the Council’s website or on the Lib Dem website.

    My source for Lib Dem policy, the one that ties directly to the way this motion has been spun to the local press, is the Lib Dem website and your party’s policy document.

    Derek Wyatt’s analysis of your party’s policy on the Post Office and Royal Mail is I admit a bit of pot stirring, but hey its not as if you’ve never been partial with your use of evidence is it!

  3. andrewkbrown says:

    Looks like Councillor Maines isn’t the only one putting forward a motion on this issue.

    This just in from Mayor Steve:

    “Over the past few weeks the Post Office has made public it’s plans regarding the future of two Post Offices within Lewisham and their proposed merger with their local WH Smith. I believe that Post Offices play a unique part in the community and a vital role in the economic vibrancy of many high streets and believe that these mergers is an example of the Post Office pursuing its own narrow interest and ignoring its role as a public service provider. I also believe that such a merger could result in a significant deterioration of services to local residents and I urge the Post Office to reconsider these proposals. I have put forward a motion calling the Post Office to account at the next Council Meeting.”

  4. Cllr Mark Morris says:

    Andrew,

    Yes, it is indeed me.

    The wording of the Liberal Democrat motion follows.

    I stand by my comment that after 10 years of so many Post Office closures (locally, London wide and across the UK) that Labour politicians should at the very least take care before hitting out at other politicians on this issue.

    Cllr Mark Morris

    This Council recognises the importance of an accessible network of Post Offices throughout Lewisham.

    Furthermore, this Council

    – opposes the decision to move Crown Post Offices in Forest Hill and Lewisham into branches of WHSmith.

    – believes that this will lead to an inferior service for all customers.

    – abhors the lack of consultation with the community and local councillors.

    – calls upon the Post Office and WHSmith to annul this decision, carry out a thorough consultation, and give assurances that the views expressed by the community and its representatives will be taken into account before any further decision is made.

    – calls upon the Mayor to request representatives from the Post Office and WHSmith to meet with members of the Council to fully explain their proposals, including guarantees on service provision for the community and the potential impacts on staff.
    Proposer: Cllr Chris Maines

    Seconder: Cllr John Russell

  5. Cllr Mark Morris says:

    By the way you can still sponsor me for the London Marathon at:
    http://www.justgiving.com/MarkCMorris

  6. andrewkbrown says:

    What a privilege to have first site of the motion, and given that Steve looks like he’s preparing a very similar motion I’m sure it’ll sail through.

    But haven’t you heard Mark? I’m not a politician any more! I lost and so am just a MoP!

  7. andrewkbrown says:

    Having sponsored Susan W it’d be churlish not to sponsor you as well. Consider it done.

  8. Could we be in for another bout of cross-party unanimity at full council? Two months in a row?! Blimey!

  9. Michael Abrahams says:

    It may make some sense for the post office to be placed in WH Smith in certain locations. I was in a Rymans / Post Office just this lunchtime. So it can’t help agreeing with quote above as long as it is on a ‘branch by branch basis’.

    What is foolish is to look at a list of WH Smiths and a list of Post Offices, plot them on a map, measure the distance between them, and close the 70 which are closest in geographical distance. This takes no account of local situations, suitability of the sites, or popularity of the existing branches.

    In the case of Forest Hill the WH Smith is wholy in appropriate for a post office, it is not big enough on the ground floor, and there is no disabled access to the top floor. Furthermore, if Lewisham Council, the Forest Hill Society, and other interested parties get there way, the building will be knocked down within a few years to rebuild the station and provide a new town centre for Forest Hill. when this happens Forest Hill will be left without a WH Smith or a post office until a new, purpose built facility can be built.

  10. andrewkbrown says:

    I’ll bow to your greater local knowledge Michael. The problem for the Post Office – as I understand it – is whether there are people out there who want to become franchise holders. Apparently they find it difficult to sell the business when they come to retire; perhaps in part because of the changes to the way that we, as customers, use Post Offices.

    I suspect that any discussions that don’t recognise the business imperative – or provide an alternative – won’t be all that attractive to the Post Office however well supported the various motions to Council are on Wednesday.

  11. Mark Morris says:

    Thank you for sponsoring me. It is very much appreciated.

    I will refrain from being dragged into discussion about the Eurovision Song Contest, tempting as it is.

  12. Lone Ranger says:

    For some reason the Gershon Agenda and The Quirk Review came to mind when I read this…..

    “These mergers is (sic) an example of the Post Office pursuing its own narrow interest and ignoring its role as a public service provider.”

    Being community spirited will we see the Mayor and Barry volunteering to operate post offices in Lewisham and Forest Hill for the local community?

  13. andrewkbrown says:

    Indeed Lone Ranger, but surely it’s an opportunity for councillors to raise their profile, so why let Steve and Barry have all the fun?

  14. Lone Ranger says:

    I’m sure with strong leadership the majority of councillors will rise to the opportunity.

  15. andrewkbrown says:

    Strong leadership? I thought the whole point was we had too much of that. Surely what you’re looking for is a soggy compromise with a rainbow coalition of volunteer post masters and mistresses.

  16. Lone Ranger says:

    Don’t blame me I’m only the messenger. You may refer to it as “a soggy compromise with a rainbow coalition of volunteer post masters and mistresses.”

    But Barry would prefer to describe it as follows….

    “Community ownership can bring people from different backgrounds together; it can foster a sense of belonging and play a role in enhancing the local environment, alleviating poverty and raising people’s aspirations.”

    ——-

    Last October industry regulator Postcomm reported “A key problem is the withdrawal of government services from the Post Office network.” £168M last year.

    http://www.politics.co.uk/news/economy/industry/post-office/post-offices-suffering-from-govt-inaction-$454493.htm

    Possibly the Mayor should amend his motion to make it clear the situation regarding Post Office’s is a result of goverment decisions.

    Yesterday it was the government who announced 2,500 post offices needed to be closed by 2009.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6176929.stm

    John McDonnell MP yesterday went further yesterday and pointed the finger at Gordon Brown (well he would do, I guess)accusing him of wanting to break up the Royal Mail into seperate units and not allowing the cross funding, which the Post Offices require.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McDonnell_%28politician%29

    Possibly the Mayor could form a coalition with his comrades in Wandsworth and lead a counter revolution?

    http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/MyWandsworth/Newsextra/postoffice.htm

  17. ross says:

    andrew, as this appears to be the appropriate place to raise the issue of politicians trying to be all things to all people in relation to post offices, i hope you don’t mind the following lodgement

    Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford on her website (aimed at her local constituents) said on 20/02/08

    “Joan Ruddock MP today expressed concern over the proposal to close the post office at 405 New Cross Road in her constituency.I will be investigating this matter thoroughly and will support my constituents in any way I can to keep the post office open.”

    however in the national parliament on 19/03/08 she voted against a motion which

    “calls upon the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Limited to suspend the compulsory closure of sub-post offices while these issues are re-assessed.”

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-03-19&number=131&sort=name

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