Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/531/4054
Tales from the council chambers
Saving our post offices!
PROTESTS CAN change things - but are even more effective when there are socialist councillors to direct public pressure onto the establishment parties. That's the lesson of Lewisham council's meeting on 23 April.
After a resolution presented by Socialist Party councillors, Chris Flood and Ian Page, Lewisham is now committed to drawing up contingency plans to keep open three local post office branches if Post Office Ltd closes them in the coming weeks.
The three post offices, in New Cross, Hither Green and Lee, were amongst 171 London branches earmarked for closure in February. During the official 'consultation' period all the main political parties criticised the closure plans. Many words were spoken but only the Socialist Party councillors proposed concrete action.
Pointing out that Essex county council had shown it was legally possible for councils to take over post office branches, Chris Flood called for Lewisham to do the same if Post Office Ltd went ahead with closures.
Realising the anger the closure plans created, the other parties had to agree. But they would not have acted without the socialist councillors pressing them to do so.
One New Labour councillor revealed their real thinking. He grudgingly backed the motion but said that post offices were "dying on their feet", now "everyone had bank accounts" or used the net. Yet millions of people without bank accounts or access to the Internet still rely on post office services, particularly the elderly, the disabled and the poor.
And it is the Labour government, that has stripped the post office of some of its functions and steered its transformation from a public service into a profit-driven enterprise, which lies behind the closure programme.
New Labour councillors opposed a Liberal Democrat motion "regretting the action of Lewisham's three MPs who voted against the suspension of the closure programme on 19 March". This was despite Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock telling the local press that the New Cross office "should not close".
Clearly Chris and Ian will have to remain vigilant to make sure that Lewisham's ruling councillors don't back away from their commitment to keep the local post offices open.
In The Socialist 30 April 2008:
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