Here is my most recent column from the Muswell Hill Flyer and the Highgate Handbook:
I declare an interest. I am not enjoying having to go to the sub-post office on Archway Road instead of the one that closed in Highgate Village. I expect I am not alone in this! It may be that there are no queues there – but certainly on each and every occasion I have been – there has been a long queue (often into the street).
Unforgivably – Labour closed five of Hornsey & Wood Green’s sub-post offices – despite huge campaigns by local people, local LibDems and myself – and the fantastic support of local celebrities like Victoria Wood.
Labour stopped the closure program when they realised the political cost that they would pay. Five thousand post offices closed – leaving their communities bereft. That loss is still being felt keenly by those communities – including our own! Sadly the political realisation that Labour was losing votes over the closures came too late to save our much beloved local post office.
Enter the Coalition last May. The Coalition government’s plans for the Post Office are excellent – and will save the Post Office and Royal Mail. Hurrah! Indeed – there are exciting plans afoot for new sorts of arrangements for post offices – working with local councils and others.
In the new model – the Coalition wants to see the Post Office expand its financial services and become a real front office for local and Government business. There are a lot of pilot projects on the table and lots of new things being developed. The Coalition believes that the Post Office could do more of the verifying of documents for the pension service, offer an end- to-end Criminal Records Bureau application service. Maybe it could support JobCentre Plus and the work on National Insurance application processes. All good stuff!
But I want a sub-post office to re-open in Highgate Village (and in other locations where the need is evident following the loss of a local facility) and was wondering if anyone else felt the same? By the time you read this I will have met with the regional Head of the Post Office to ask him to consider opening another sub-post office in Highgate Village.
I am sure the new ‘model’ for local post offices will be splendid – but where we have lost a treasured local community service – all we really want is what we had – back!
So I am meeting Mr Richard Barker – he who is Head of our region Post Officewise – to get an early bid in for a future service in Highgate Village. It is probably on the over-optimistic side to think this meeting will produce a new sub-post office – but hey – I am an optimist. And more to the point perhaps – I want to start campaigning now – so that when perhaps a new ‘post-office local’ is developed – we are first in line to pilot it here in Highgate and Muswell Hill. (Alexandra sub-post office was also closed by Labour – leaving many, many residents there with a bus journey to reach the main post office in Muswell Hill).
So – as I said – I declare an interest because I miss my local post office. If you do too – then please let me know by emailing at me firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
Post the meeting – which was also about the the overlong queues at Wood Green, Muswell Hill and Crouch End – these main post offices will now to have action taken to reduce wait times. As for ‘post office local’ – it is still a bit distant horizon and gleam in Post Office eye rather than imminent reality – but I am convinced that we will get back local services in the future in a new form under the new arrangements.