Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 26th June 2019

Even now, I suspect there are those who do not realise Crawley’s Crown Post Office has closed, with a reduced range of services being franchised-out to the County Mall branch of WH Smiths instead.

Last year, Crawley Labour members went door-to-door to try and build public pressure to stop the closure. Despite our sizeable petition and the overwhelming opposition expressed in their consultation, the closure went ahead.

Many of us might not be hugely affected by the change, at least until the next set of service reductions, but for those with mobility issues it means accessing their Crown Post Office has gone from parking right next to the building in a disabled bay, to paying to park in County Mall and making the whole way through the shopping centre to access those services. It’s a huge step backwards in accessibility for Crawley’s disabled and elderly residents no longer so stable on their feet, frankly it’s hard to see how it’s legal under the Equality Act.

Adding insult to injury, Post Office Limited have only now sent a representative to the council to answer questions about the closure and, worse, they couldn’t answer a single question about the branch, its profitability before closure, complaints they’ve received about the new franchise or what was done to reduce the impact on vulnerable residents. Crawley has been treated with contempt by what is supposed to be a public service.

The Post Office was never set up to be a business, it existed to provide local access to government services including the postal network. Write to the Government and they say these decisions are left to the Post Office, but write to the Post Office and they say the Government has instructed them to commercialise. So year-by-year services are lost and franchised off, sacrificing the needs of citizens for those of business.

It doesn’t have to be this way, Labour’s announcement that they’d protect branches and used them to create a national bank would give branches the financial stability they need to preserve services for future generations. The question is: will people vote for it?

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