Residents across Southall are continuing their campaign with the Communications Workers Union to save Southall Broadway Post Office and say the Post Office has not fully informed or engaged with locals about plans to close the branch. A final decision on its future is set to be announced by the end of this month.
Following a consultation period which ran from November 15 2023 until 27 December 2023 local people were invited to voice their concerns.
With the consultation period now over, the Post Office is now analysing 88 responses it says it had received during the consultation period.
One campaigner told EALING.NEWS 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.”
Despite the closure of the consultation, campaigners to save the local Post Office are still encouraging the community to sign its petition which has now 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 a public meeting at the Dominion Centre from 6pm to 8pm will be taking place.
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, a Post Office spokesperson said: “We are reviewing feedback to the consultation and plan to announce our decision later this month.”
In 2019, the Post Office took out a five year lease on its premises. The spokesperson commented: “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.”