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Save our Post Offices: Sheffield campaign builds strength
WITHIN 48 hours of Post Office Ltd announcing 16 branch closures in the city, Sheffield Communities Against Post Office Closures (SCAPOC) contacted all the sub-postmasters and held a 30-strong campaign meeting including reps from the National Federation of Subpostmasters, Communication Workers Union and the Federation of Small Businesses.
After presenting 8,000 signatures on petitions to two city council meetings, Socialist Party members initiated SCAPOC as a broad-based city-wide campaign to oppose the Post Office's closure programme. It aims to force Sheffield council to take over closed branches needed by local communities.
The Green Party support this and have three councillors to fight for it in the Town Hall. Both the ruling Lib-Dems and opposition Labour group sent a representative to our meeting.
The new Lib-Dem council is publicly opposing all closures - council leader Paul Scriven pledges to fight "with the last breath in my body"! SCAPOC says very good, now turn words into action and give local campaigns the resources to fight these closures and an undertaking to keep all needed post offices open.
Local campaigns have begun. Joe Buckley reports: "At Silverhill Post Office we had a very positive response. A public meeting has been organised.
"One member of the public commented, 'I don't see why the Post Office has to make money. Other government services don't have this requirement', while another, from a local residential home, noted that 'a mile round trip to the next post office might be alright for some, but what am I meant to do?' Everyone knows Sheffield is built on seven hills, everyone apart from Post Office bosses it seems."
John Taylor says: "They say the alternative branch is only 0.9 miles away but for us it's like the last 0.9 mile of Everest! Though Derbyshire Lane is a relatively small Post Office, this branch punches well above its weight.
"This Post Office provides the main community link-point for one of Sheffield's most densely populated residential areas. So on Saturday, out went the trestle table. Up went the posters. Within 90 minutes nearly 150 people had signed up to say they agreed with us.
"Some stopped on the way in or out of the Post Office. Others had heard we were there and made a particular point of turning up to share their anger and to sign the petition sheets. Many gave money. Others offered help. The Postmaster and his staff were visibly moved by the responses from everybody."
We know the consultation process is a sham. In fact, Adrian Wales, the 'Network Development Manager' said that "consultation is not a debate." However SCAPOC plans to build mass campaigns which, together with well-researched cases, can force the Post Office and the council to keep post offices open.
CREWE'S MAIL sorting office is under threat of closure with the loss of more than 600 jobs. Royal Mail, Crewe's third biggest employer, has confirmed it is considering shutting the Weston Road site.
Mail bosses have put forward three options which, they claim, will secure the future of the company. But two involve closing the Crewe site. Steve Wright, branch secretary of the Communication Workers Union recently said: "One option is to build a new mail centre in Liverpool and concentrate Liverpool and Crewe together. The second is to open a new mail centre in Liverpool and extend Crewe, the third is to concentrate Crewe and Liverpool into Warrington."
Mr Wright also said Royal Mail has a "travel to work policy" where the maximum distance workers should travel is 22 miles. "Within that area there is nothing for 600 to 700 people to go to," he commented. "If they shut Crewe they will have a massive problem of not having any place for workers to go."
Members of the Socialist Party's Stoke Branch, led by myself as a local resident, collected over 500 signatures from two very successful stalls from local residents who wished us well in our fight.
In The Socialist 13 August 2008:
The Socialist Diary
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news