Royal Mail should rethink delivery office closure

People living in Yatton and Claverham may soon have to pick up their parcels from Sixways in Clevedon as it now seems inevitable the village delivery office will close. This means added inconvenience, traffic and congestion. Congresbury residents will need to travel to Weston-super-Mare.

vital community service at risk

Losing the delivery office jeopardises the sustainability of our post office and its ability to provide vital counter services to the community.

I understand Royal Mail is likely to formally give notice to Yatton Post Office this week.

At the moment, no one is talking about the closure of the post office in the short term. The business would receive compensation for the loss of about one third of its income for twelve months. But make no mistake, closure would have “a massive impact” and losing one will put the other in jeopardy; unthinkable for a growing community of 9,000 people – with more major planning applications due to land before the end of the year.

COMMUNITY – AND HOW TO BREAK IT

The nearest delivery office in Clevedon is up at Sixways – off the beaten track for many who might need to pick up a missed delivery. This is another kick in the teeth for Yatton after the bus service I had secured to reconnect Yatton and Clevedon was put on hold following lockdown.

Yatton is a large “Service Village” – yet we are expected to accept hundreds of new homes, while suffering diminished access to public services.

Royal Mail and the Post Office are separate companies. Royal Mail is the company that delivers parcels and letters – the provider of the universal postal service. The Post Office is the nationwide network of branches offering a range of postal, Government and financial services.

In rural areas post offices are recognised as one of the two ‘most essential’ services (with convenience stores) that have a ‘positive impact on a local area’. In Yatton, the post office counter service is regularly used by 94 per cent of the community. We cannot afford to lose it; it is a vital community hub… the glue, which holds a community together.

WRONG TIME

I’d like to know how much money Royal Mail thinks it will save by taking this step now – during a pandemic. Royal Mail social distancing guidance  states that only one person in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time – although a source has told me that managers want to relax this rule.

Maybe it was inevitable that this day would come after the Post Office and Royal Mail were separated in a controversial privatisation following the Postal Services Act 2011. In 2013, the government felt the need to produce a document to answer “common misconceptions” about the plans to sell shares in Royal Mail and the possible impact on the Post Office. The government initially retained a 30 per cent stake in Royal Mail, but sold its remaining shares in 2015, ending 499 years of public ownership. In June this year The Telegraph reported there are fears for the future of 11,500 Post Office branches after the rural subsidy was slashed.

PETITION

The decision to close the Yatton office will be made despite our campaign to save it. Our petition reached almost 2,000 signatures in a couple of weeks. We could probably have got more.

Since I learned of the possibility of closure on 28th December 2019, I have campaigned to save the delivery office. I have met the regional representative of The National Federation of SubPostmasters and wrote to the local media in February (see below). I also keep in regular touch with Nicky and Chris at the post office. I twice wrote to Rebecca Mantyck (Area Distribution Manager at Royal Mail) seeking clarification on what is proposed. I received a knowingly deceitful reply from a PR guy in London.

I’m really proud of the campaign that the community ran to try to save our parcel office. We demonstrated to Royal Mail that our post office is an integral part of the community and that their actions jeopardises its future. Yet they have still gone away and decided that they are closing the sorting office anyway.

RETHINK

Royal Mail has gone ‘missing’; they are a communications company that has forgotten how to communicate.

Back in April Royal Mail managers promised no action would be taken given the country was in lockdown. They have refused to listen to the community and are pressing ahead with the closure of the sorting office. The fact they are doing so now and disregarding their own consultation process is disappointing to say the least.

I will be writing again to Royal Mail to ask them to rethink the closure of the delivery office – or at least delay it until such time it is safe for more staff to share the space in Clevedon. I will ask what arrangements are being make for residents and local businesses to collect parcels, how much later mail will be delivered, and seek guarantees that no local jobs will be lost as a result.

In Pill, the post office counter remained open after the sorting office went to Avonmouth – as does the collection of non-deliverable parcels in the village. We need a commitment that local collection will still be provided in Yatton.

Our public services and community assets seem continually under attack. The Government has insisted it is “committed to safeguarding the [Post Office] network and protecting rural services”. It needs to deliver.

Letter published in the North Somerset Times, 12 February 2020

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