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~Flashmob: local protesters are joined by like-minded colleagues from Newhaven as they wait to enter St Leonards post office (photo: Cliff Vancoevorden).

Local protesters are joined by like-minded colleagues from Newhaven as they wait to enter St Leonards post office (photo: Cliff Vancoevorden).

Some thoughts on campaigning to save our Crown Post Office

This Tuesday morning on the way to work, I heard our MP, Amber Rudd, on the Today programme talk about the Suffragettes and how important it was that women campaigned so hard to get the vote. She fought shy of agreeing that those women who had undergone prison sentences for their actions should be pardoned, but she supported the Votes for Women activists who lobbied for something that they believed was important for a fair and democratic society. Erica Smith contemplates public protest.

Last week a local man, William Bullin, recceived a response to his Freedom of Information request about how Post Office Ltd made its decision to hand over the St Leonards Crown Post Office to a temporary franchisee, Potent Solutions Ltd, who are now employing the same counter staff on a minimum wage on a weekly renewable contract.

The redacted document talks about the local residents who chose to defend their right to a Crown Post Office as if they were responsible for Post Office Ltd’s decision to wash its hands of the responsibility for St Leonards Crown Post Office.

There was a quote on the Post Office Ltd website about their public relations approach that makes me angry every time I think about it:
“ … there’s a risk that without proper handling, local noise can escalate to a larger scale roar which reaches ministers or national stakeholder groups in a way that can knock us off course.”
Post Office Ltd, Public Affairs Team

8,000 plus local residents of all ages, backgrounds and political beliefs signed a petition to keep the Post Office Crown. Our 32 borough councillors supported this with a unanimous motion at a full Council meeting. Hundreds of people signed a pledge not to buy non-Post Office goods if the Post Office was to be turned into a newsagent/tobacconist/Post Office franchise. Our MP and leader of the Council attended meetings that were held by local residents.

Right from the start, the campaign group was very mindful that the campaign should be peaceful, and should never be perceived as a personal attack on the potential franchisee or impact on the Post Office counter staff. Campaigners always maintained a discrete distance from Post Office staff and never tried to involve them in the campaign because they didn’t want to put them in an awkward position with Post Office Ltd management.

To read the accusations in the redacted document was upsetting. From the beginning of the Post Office ‘consultation process’, Post Office Ltd’s line was that the decision for what they did with St Leonards Crown Post Office was not going to be affected by public opinion, so it is not fair to blame the campaign group for palming off a profitable Crown Post Office to a temporary franchisee with a dubious track record.

In a democratic society, we all have the right for our voices to be heard, and to campaign for causes that we think are important. I believe that the Save the St Leonards Crown Post Office campaign has been a model community-led campaign. I will mourn the loss of our Crown Post Office and decent wages for well-qualified counter-staff. This community-led campaign was fought to keep a well-functioning post office with well-paid staff. Do not blame the local community for the cheapskate decision-making that Post Office Ltd chose to undertake.

Posted 19:52 Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 In: Campaigns

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