Protestors Descend On Ely Post Office

POST Office protestors filled the Ely High Street branch on Thursday morning to highlight the issue of overcrowding in the busy main office for the city should the proposed closure in Soham, Ely and Little Downham go ahead. Leading the protest was Little

POST Office protestors filled the Ely High Street branch on Thursday morning to highlight the issue of overcrowding in the busy main office for the city should the proposed closure in Soham, Ely and Little Downham go ahead.

Leading the protest was Little Downham resident Emma Martin, who had managed to gather together a group of around 30 people. She wanted to show Post Office bosses what could happen if people were forced to travel from smaller branches and use the main office in Ely.

"Unfortunately there wasn't a queue out of the door," she said, "because they had heard we were coming and put extra staff on."

Fellow Little Downham resident and pensioner Jean Gallyer highlighted the problem of public transport. "I have to get the bus here, and it takes about three hours because of the timetable, it's a single decker bus which seats no more than 20 people and has steps up to the door - for people in wheelchairs or mothers with pushchairs it is either difficult or impossible to get on and off."

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Protester Emma Martin has put in a Freedom of Information request to Post Office Ltd, asking for papers on the profitability of her nearest branch at Little Downham, but was disappointed with the reply she received. "I was asking for a total figure," she said, "but they replied saying it would reveal the salary of the postmaster and that was personal information."

South East Cambs MP, Jim Paice, has met with the post masters of the St John's Road in Ely branch and Hall Road in Soham. Malcom Moss MP has also met with the staff at the Little Downham branch as it is in his constituency.

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Mr Paice told the Ely Standard that he had also had two meetings with PO representatives.

In an official response to the Post Office on the closure of St John's Road, he said the proposed closure could not be based on any meaningful knowledge of the local area. "Furthermore the compensation arrangements would go to a large organisation rather than to the people who will lose their livelihoods. The branch is located in the part of the city of Ely where considerable housing development has taken place. It is a considerable way from the High Street branch with serious consequences for the frail and disabled. Ely is scheduled to receive considerably more housing growth which could raise the population towards 20,000. To have only one Post Office branch for a population of such size would be unacceptable."

Of Little Downham, he commented: "This is just outside Ely and outside my constituency, however, should it be confirmed for closure then the St John's Road branch would not only be the nearest but also is close to the direct route into Ely city centre. Many customers displaced from Little Downham would be likely to use St John's Road where on-street parking is available rather than the High Street branch which would involve parking elsewhere. The potential increase in business from this arrangement has not been taken into account. Most importantly, the only alternative branch is that operated by Lloyds Chemists in High Street, Ely. Ever since the Crown PO was closed and the contract given to Lloyds there have been serious problems. The facilities are cramped and wholly inadequate with queues regularly stretching on to the street. Whilst some changes have been made they have failed to correct the difficulties and to propose adding all the business from St Johns Road is unacceptable to the community. Lloyds has continually promised improvements which have failed to materialise. No actions which would increase the usage of the High Street branch should be considered until and unless Lloyds provide considerably more space and staffing levels. This is necessary anyway regardless of Network Change and if Lloyds fail to make their improvements then PO should look for an alternative licensee."

Mr Paice said the Hall Street branch in Soham was located a mile away from the only alternative in the High Street. A considerable number of the customers are elderly and would not be able to walk to the High Street.

He went on to say: "A considerable amount of new development has taken place recently at the north end of Soham and significant further development is scheduled. Hall Street is at the end of the town and is certain to benefit from this. No account appears to have been taken of this growth and its impact on business levels."

Mr Paice also remarked that the branches earmarked for closure involved low compensation packages in that all had staff who had only been in place for a short time.

"In Ely, there is no 'on-site' sub-postmaster. It suggests very low compensation liabilities to the PO and that the choice of branches to close may have more to do with minimising compensation than in service development.

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