LAST week my husband posted an envelope through the pillar box that stands outside the former Royal Mail sorting office in Cromwell Road, Whitstable. This is the spot where more than 300 local people gathered on January 12, 2013, before marching through the streets to support postal workers in their strike against Royal Mail’s decision to close the sorting office and move its operations to Canterbury. Before the move, Whitstable postal workers sorted mail in this building before delivering it locally There was also a “caller’s office” where undelivered mail could be collected. It is now eight miles away.
Royal Mail cited its decision as an efficiency move but postal worker and CWU union rep Chris Stone wrote at the time:
“This has nothing to do with efficiency. The only tangible gain will be that an underused building in Canterbury will now be filled – at a cost to the wellbeing of Royal Mail’s own workers, and to their customers.”
Chris’s view appears to be vindicated because 50 postal workers in 30 vans now make as many as four trips a day back and forth from Whitstable to Canterbury over a total distance of 32 miles. Chris told me:
“The move has increased our workload by around 50 per cent, which is covered by overtime and the employment of casual staff who are used on what is now pretty much a permanent basis.”
Royal Mail shareholders would surely be interested to hear about such poor economics. The empty building is a saleable asset, however, and a sold sign duly appeared on it before Christmas. Having posted his envelope in the pillar box outside, my husband then noticed a less conspicuous Royal Mail sign stating that, from December 2014, the box would be “permanently removed from service” due to the landowner not wanting it on their land.
The envelope my husband had posted contained a cheque, so he called Royal Mail in frustration, only to be told by a customer services representative that the notice was “misleading”. Explaining that collections were still, in fact, being made from the box, she said that the sign’s purpose was to discourage people from using the box so they would became accustomed to the idea of it being put out of service in the future.
So, who is the “landowner” who has decreed they do not want the postbox on their land? And why is there is a sold sign on the building when I have learnt no sale has taken place? Local community development campaigner Becky Richards recently applied to Canterbury City Council to register the building as a “community asset” so that it could be kept for public use rather than private development. She informed me that she had been told by Royal Mail that the company was proceeding with a sale after a “seven figure” bid — but as yet no sale has been completed.
If Royal Mail is so keen to cut its ever-dwindling collections in our area, shouldn’t itat least be more honest with us about it?
• For more on this subject, you can read Chris Stone’s blog on Whitstable’s Royal Mail protest at christopherjamesstone.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/whitstables-carnival-of-resistance/
For details about Becky Richards’ campaign to save the building for the community, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Transition-Town-Whitstable/337788169111?v=wall&ref=ts
Herne Bay Times, January 28th 2015