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Save our Crowns – protests spread

1st March 2013

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Post Office bosses' recent announcement of plans to franchise some 70 crowns around the country will impact disproportionately on Wales, where eight out of only 20 across the nation have been targeted, and protests have been held in several towns.

"This is 40 per cent of our Crown Offices," said Gary Watkins, CWU regional secretary for Wales, where towns and communities from Carmarthenshire and Glamorgan up to Denbighshire, Flintshire and Anglesey in the north face the downgrade of their local postal services.

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Around 100 people attended a rally in Carmarthen last week (BBC news South West Wales: Carmarthen post office: Rally over 'shop move' worry), to hear local mayor and the town's MP speak out against the franchise plans.

Gary said that, in the south of the nation, the culturally historic town of Camarthen would be left without a post office - one of the few Welsh language post offices - while both the Neath and Port Talbot offices are under the axe, along with the Morriston office in Swansea.

South Wales Evening Post journalist Ian Lewis reported from the rally (Anger over plans to move Carmarthen's King Street post office) that Mayor Phil Grice told protesters that both he and the town council opposed the proposal.

"We must all act quickly and together, all political parties and all people," he said, adding: "If the post office closes and relocates then it really will be the death knell for King Street and lead to the dereliction of that part of town."

The same article also quoted Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart describing Carmarthen Post Office, which first opened in 1901, as "a social hub.

"I know how important it is for the town and it is something the whole town is together on," stormed the Conservative backbencher, who was chief executive of the Countryside Alliance before he entered Parliament in 2010.

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And Gary also got his name into the paper, speaking up for the 10 Post Office workers, who, he pointed out: "Provide a public service which is at the heart of the community.

"What if a retailer takes over the post office service and then folds?" he asked, warning: "The town is left without a single post office service."

Gary is meeting Neath MP Peter Hain to further co-ordinate protests across south Wales and meetings are also planned with Port Talbot Council.

"We're also opposing the franchising plans in north Wales," Gary continued, adding that communities in Denbighshire and Flintshire will see a downgrading of services, with Crown offices in Rhyl and Holywell on the franchise list, while residents of Angelsey are set to lose two offices - at the port of Holyhead and the county town of Llangefni.

An article Changes to post offices in Holyhead criticised in The Holyhead and Anglesey Mail reported that members of Holyhead Town Council have sharply criticised the proposals, quoting concerns from local councillor Trefor Lloyd Hughes, who is reported as describing the changes as "shameful" and adding: "I'm really worried about this, it makes no sense at all what's being proposed, people are just being ignored."

England

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CWU South East Region secretary Paul Carpenter and other union representatives and members of the South East No. 3 Branch joined forces with Save our Post Office campaigners in Hastings last week, where they received a "very warm reception from people, despite the freezing cold weather" in the south coast town.

After a hard day's work on the campaign stall outside the post office, Paul said: "Our campaign to keep Hastings Post Office open has been very well received and supported by the community, who oppose the closure.

"In just a few days we received over 900 signatures for saving this Crown Office. Hastings is against this closure and CWU is working hard with the community to try to ensure this post office stays open."

Watch the video from the Hastings demo and sign the petition.

Local campaigners in Sussex, Kent, Oxfordshire, West Midlands and elsewhere have been out and about on high streets winning public support for their efforts to save postal services.

Town and district councillors, MPs of all parties, small businesses, customers and members of the CWU have joined together to fight for their towns and in defence of their post offices.

Plans to franchise Witney Post Office in Oxfordshire have also provoked controversy, an online poll by the Oxford Times reporting 82 per cent opposition to the plan, while in Willenhall, West Midlands, more than 1,000 signatures have been gathered from worried residents determined to keep their Crown Office.

And efforts to save Crown Offices in Whitstable - where residents face the double blow of losing their delivery office too - and Hastings are gathering momentum.