The Post Office belongs to us - St Leonards says no to privatisation!

Erica Smith from the Hastings Online Times says the plans for St Leonards Crown Post Office are about back door privatisation. This is an edited blog - the full, original article is here.

Nationally a long-term drive to reduce the number of Crown Post Offices is under way, and deprived seaside towns are seen as an easy target. In my opinion, the whole process stinks of back-hand privatisation being dressed up as ‘modernisation’. 

Here in St Leonards, the government is intending to sell OUR property – a piece of prime real estate in the heart of the town – direct to a private investor. He will be contracted to run a Post Office franchise in the building for a certain number of years (no one seems to know whether that is five years or 10 years). After that, it’s up to him what he does with the building. He would be free to sell it for redevelopment, and local residents may end up with a cramped Post Office counter in a local mini-market.

A local campaign group has been running since Autumn last year, and growing in numbers as the news of the intention to downgrade the Post Office has spread. The plans revealed at the ‘User Forum’ last Thursday have given locals even more to worry about, including an intended sale of the property direct to a business man with a criminal record for selling alcohol to minors. 

Post Office Limited, a Government-owned company, is seeking views from locals to send in their views by tomorrow, Wednesday 9 August. It's not clear whether this is a real consultation.

It appears that Hastings Borough Council have also had the wool pulled over their eyes about the Post Office Ltd plans. When the Council became aware of the full reality of the situation, a motion supporting the continuation of the Crown Post Office status was raised at a full Council meeting. It was passed unanimously. No party political divide. Unanimous support for keeping our St Leonards post office a Crown Post Office.

"Asset-stripping", "land grab"

It strikes me that the Post Office Ltd team in charge of the ‘modernisation process’ just wanted to make an easy sale. At the User Forum, phrases like ‘asset-stripping’ and ‘land grab’ were shouted out by shocked members of the community when the intention for the private sale of a public asset became apparent.

Hundreds of local residents have already signed a pledge not to purchase non-Post Office products if the proposed franchise goes ahead.

Bridgend in south Wales has successfully kept its Crown Post Office as the result of a widely supported and vocal community campaign. It is important that we all make our voices heard.

Wouldn’t it be joyous if we could save our Post Office from the forces of underhand public asset-stripping and back door privatisation?! Go on – don’t give up yet – send that email to: comments@postoffice.co.uk. Copy your comments and letters to the Post Office Board of Directors (including Paula Vennells) - POLBoard@postoffice.co.uk and Amber Rudd - Amber.Rudd.MP@parliament.uk

Read the full article in Hastings Online Times.

Join the facebook group Save St Leonards Crown Post Office campaign.

"This isn't just about our own town, this is about the government selling off publicly owned assets, namely the land upon which our Crown Post Offices stand, under the misleading veil of "Franchised Retail Partners & Branch Modernisation". This is public asset stripping by stealth and we cannot let this happen!" Kay Avery-Stallion, Save St Leonards Crown Post Office campaign