Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds today reacted with anger and disbelief at the news received over the weekend that the closure of the Post Office branches at Stratton, The Beeches, Weston sub Edge and Meysey Hampton is to go ahead as scheduled following Post Office Ltds public consultation.
The news came as a total shock as Postwatch, the consumer body for postal services, had informed the MP that they would invoke the formal procedure to halt the closure if Post Office Ltd continued with the proposals. In a decision the MP described as “incomprehensible” this appeal has been rejected by Post Office Ltd.
However, Mr Clifton-Brown also feels that Postwatch demonstrated a lack of backbone through giving up at stage one of the 4 stage appeal process which would have ended up with Allan Leighton the Post Office Chairman. The only concessions that have been achieved are that the seven serving counters will be maintained if the Crown Post Office moves and that the closure of the branches at Stratton and The Beeches will be staggered.
The closures will commence at the beginning of June and as far as Postwatch are concerned there will be no further appeal. The only small glimmer of hope now seems to be through a direct appeal by Mr Clifton-Brown to Pat McFadden MP, the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs.
In a letter to Mr Clifton-Brown dated 8 April 2008, Postwatch stated “we have serious concerns with the proposal to close both Stratton and The Beeches…we have serious doubts about the capability of the Branch Office (in Cirencester) to cope with additional customers….customers have also expressed concern at the inability to park outside the Branch Office (double yellow lines) resulting in a lengthy walk with heavy parcels”. The letter goes on to conclude that should Post Office Ltd “proceed with both of these closures, Postwatch would initiate the review process”.
These comments match those heard at the 8 public meetings the MP organised and seen time and again in the many hundreds of letters received by Mr Clifton-Brown and in the individual letters the MP sent to Post Office during the consultation period.
The MP believes this will expose the absolute folly of a decision which will leave 19,000 residents from Cirencester and 21 surrounding villages covering 100 square miles to use the inadequate Crown Post Office in Cirencester.
Speaking today Mr Clifton-Brown branded the consultation “a sham and a complete waste of time as Post Office Ltd had clearly already made up the minds and would not budge. This is caused entirely by the Government instructing the Post Office, its wholly owned subsidiary, to close 2500 branches with no room for manoeuvre on this figure”
“This decision will have dire consequences for the people of the Cotswolds. It will result in a great deal of hardship involving thousands of people having to travel much further to obtain basic services which a sophisticated country such as ours should be able to provide at convenient locations.
He continued “This decision totally reinforces the view that the Government simply does not care about rural areas, in particular the Cotswolds”
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