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Ealing Council calls in Post Office bosses to explain decision to close Southall Broadway branch

Ealing Council has said it has written to the Post Office to attend a meeting with its Overview and Scrutiny Committee to explain the decision to close its Southall Broadway branch which is set to shut for good on 6 March 2024.

The council said it was “disappointed with the Post Office’s decision to close its Southall branch, against the wishes of the local community”

The move comes after a group of locals delivered a 4,000 person signed petition to Prime Minster Rishi Sunak to keep the Post Office open while on 17 February 2023 a public march and rally took place from Southall Broadway Post Office to Old Southall Town Hall.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday (21 February 2024), a motion was also passed to oppose the closing of the Southall Broadway branch.

Speaking to EAING.NEWS, an Ealing Council spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the Post Office’s decision to close its Southall branch, against the wishes of the local community. The council unanimously passed a motion not for debate opposing the closure of Southall Post Office at our full council meeting on Wednesday 21 February. Our leader, Councillor Peter Mason and Councillor Louise Brett, lead member for decent living incomes, have also recently written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary in charge of post offices about the impact the closure is likely to have on local people.”

They added: “We have also asked the Post Office to present themselves to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to justify the decision to close the post office.”

The march and rally on Saturday (17 February 2024) saw around 100 people go from the Post Office on Southall Broadway to outside Old Southall Town Hall where speeches were delivered by locals and politicians.

Ealing Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for safe & genuinely affordable homes led residents on the march and also spoke of his concerns about closing the Post Office. He said on X (formerly known as Twitter): “We came together to save Southall’s Crown Post Office. ❤️ Beating Heart of Southall Broadway. 🛟 Lifeline for elderly and vulnerable 📦 Essential for local businesses.”

Councillor Mahfouz also passed on a message from Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and posted: “These closures are not inevitable, they are a political choice by a Tory Govt which has overseen years of austerity & neglect of our high streets. The Govt must step in to prevent the closure of the Post Offices in Southall and Clapham. Post Offices and their dedicated staff provide a vital service to their communities and I’m proud to support the CWU’s campaign.”

Local resident and chair of campaign group CASH, Joe Bhangu told the rally: “We are never going to give up.”

The march and rally comes a few weeks after a 4,000 signed petition was delivered to Number 10 by local resident Minni Dogra who was joined by Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma on the steps of Downing Street along with the Communication Workers Union.

 

Local Southall resident Minni Dogra is joined by Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma at Number 10. Photo: x.com/@Mole62
Local Southall resident Minni Dogra is joined by Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma at Number 10. Photo: x.com/@Mole62

The ongoing fight to save the Post Office comes after a consultation period which ran from November 15 2023 until 27 December 2023 where local people were invited to voice their concerns. The Post Office said that 88 responses were received and was part of the decision making process to close the Post Office.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We’re grateful to the local community for taking the time to share their views with us and provide feedback during the public consultation. We have decided not to renew the lease where Southall DMB is currently located as we believe that partnering with a retailer in the local community is the best way to provide access to our products and services on which customers rely.

“We have long stated our commitment to fully franchise our network as this model is more sustainable for customers and for Postmasters. Over 99.9% of our branches are successfully run as franchises.”

In a statement, the Post Office added: “There are four alternative Post Offices located close to where Southall’s Directly Managed branch is presently located. The Post Office has also advertised the opportunity to run a Local branch service in the immediate area of Southall Post Office location.”

Residents across Southall had previously campaigned with the Communications Workers Union to save Southall Broadway Post Office and say the Post Office had not fully informed or engaged with locals about plans to close the branch.

One campaigner told EALING.NEWS previously about their concern over the way the Post Office communicated to locals about the planned closure.

They said: “I never saw any sign of a public consultation.  I only learnt about it in mid December through social media. When I asked at the Post Office about it, they pointed me to a leaflet stand where the consultation paper was. You would not see it if you just go in and join the queue. There were no posters inside the premises. The staff are worried about their jobs. More importantly, 88 responses is proof that many people in Southall suffer digital exclusion as reconfirmed in reports commissioned by Ealing Council. The local people suffer high poverty indicators.”

A  petition to save the Post Office had over 500 signatories. The organisers of the campaign say the closure will lead to “loss of service to the community, loss of local knowledge and well trained dedicated staff, loss of meaningful employment within the community.”

The Communications Workers Union has also been organising regular protests outside the Post Office to draw awareness to the planned closure and on 23 January 2024 held a public meeting at the Dominion Centre. 

In 2019, the Post Office took out a five year lease on its premises. A spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “The lease for the premises at 38 The Broadway, where Southall Post Office operates from, will soon expire. When a lease is ending, a review is undertaken of provision of Post Office services in the local area to ensure that we are sustainably meeting evolving customer needs.”

They added: “Consequently, we have decided not to renew the lease as we believe that partnering with a retailer in the local community is the best way to continue to provide access to Post Office products and services on which customers rely.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, a campaigner to save the Post Office commented: “The freeholder is willing to offer a new lease on more favourable terms than before as they recognise the service is an essential service to the local diverse community living and working in Southall.”

The Post Office says that it looking for a partner to run a service in the local area and claims it works in other places. The spokesperson added: “We have long stated our commitment to fully franchise the network as this model is more sustainable for customers and postmasters. Over 99.9% of our branches are successfully run as franchises.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS previously, Dr Onkar Sahota, member of the London Assembly for Ealing & Hillingdon raised his concerns about the closure: “Post Offices are precious community assets especially to vulnerable Londoners. For those without the necessary digital skills or access to the internet, Post Offices give community members somewhere to bank or pay their bills.”

Dr Sahota added: “Southall isn’t a wealthy area. We know that many residents will rely on the Post Office for essential services and will struggle without a local branch.”

With an increase in homes being built in Southall, residents have also questioned the decision by the Post Office. One local voiced their concerns to EALING.NEWS on hearing the plan to close the branch: “Do they know Berkeley Group are planning to more than double the number of new homes to 8,100 at the Gasworks site. Could be anything from 15,000 to 30,000 new residents for whom the Broadway Post Office would be the nearest and most convenient to get to.”

Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party voiced his concerns: “The proposed closure is a blow to the centre of Southall and the Post Office should seek to keep services on the high street. The nearest branches are a considerable distance from the centre of the town and will make accessing essential service much harder.”

Southall resident and Clean Air for Southall & Hayes co-ordinator Angela Fonso told EALING.NEWS of her concerns: “The closure of the Post Office offering will affect residents without access to the internet. I was able to apply for my DVLA photo card, a service which wasn’t available at Western Road Post Office, which is nearest to my home.”

Ms Fonso added: “If the Post Office on the Broadway closes down, residents will need to travel to post offices in either Hounslow or Hanwell for this service, which are not within a 20 minute neighbourhood for Southall, which Ealing Council desires.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Councillor Gary Malcolm, leader of Ealing Liberal Democrats said: “Liberal Democrats feel that Post Offices can often be a vital part of the community as many people do not always have access to services via the internet due to a lack of wifi or knowledge, or might need that face to face contact to help them. Often when a Post Office closes it is important to make sure that all of those services can be done in some community location very nearby whether that be a larger type of corner shop or other type of retail establishment.”

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