Why thousands are signing up to fight post office closures

by ED FORDHAM, Lib Dem parliamentary campaign for Camden & Kilburn This week we have seen the announcement by the Government of the 150 post offices in London which are due to close and another 2,000 across England. In Hampstead and Highgate the post offices in South End Green, England s Lane and Highgate Village are on

This week we have seen the announcement by the Government of the 150 post offices in London which are due to close and another 2,000 across England. In Hampstead and Highgate the post offices in South End Green, England's Lane and Highgate Village are on the list. Post offices in Cricklewood, Somers Town and Kensal Rise are also scheduled for closure.

I've been working with Nancy Jirira, candidate in the Fortune Green by-election, who has been fighting to keep Mill Lane and West End Lane off the government's list, and I've been frankly amazed by the response.

Well over 1,000 people have responded to Nancy's petition in the last few weeks - a huge number of residents. And on the streets London Assembly campaigner Nick Russell and Belsize Councillor Alexis Rowell have been similarly overwhelmed with support for their campaigns in Belsize Park and South End Green.

Why is it that post offices matter to people? What has generated this huge response? Why have people from all walks of life flocked to put their names to these campaigns? I think there are three reasons.

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Firstly, local people in Hampstead, West Hampstead and Kilburn care about their communities. They care about their shopping streets and their high roads. Whether it is Linda Chung and her NW3 campaign, Cllr Fraser's support for Queen's Crescent Market or Cllr Rowell's campaign for a Christmas tree in England's Lane, these are where the community comes together.

Post offices are at the heart of these streets - they bring people to them and give them a focus.

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This provides further evidence that the Labour Government doesn't understand the nature of our communities at all. And this is on top of moves to centralise our NHS services, close our police stations and reduce responsive local policing.

Secondly, people think of the post office as providing a public service, reliable and there for you wherever you are in the country. In fact, a nationwide, subsidised Royal Mail postal service could be said to be the first public service - dating from before primary schools and the NHS - precious services which mark this country out as civilised, offering everyone access to the services they need.

It's ironic that Rowland Hill, founder of the postal system, was a local resident and is remembered locally with a plaque and a street named after him.

Even in these days of devolution and diversity, we rightly value shared institutions as binding different communities together across the country.

Thirdly, people care for the post offices because they know that they are especially important for the elderly and vulnerable. I suspect that some of those who signed our petitions don't use their immediate post office that often, except to post their Christmas parcels. But they do not want it to be more difficult for those who aren't as lucky.

They don't want people to have to catch the buses or walk up the hill to pick up their pensions or other benefits, as residents of South End Green will have to do, to get to Hampstead or Queen's Crescent Post Offices.

They don't want the elderly or those with prams and pushchairs to have to stand in a queue for 20 minutes because their local post office is closed and the queues in those that are left are even longer.

Support for our post offices is, for me, a visible rejection of the harsh mantra that "there is no such thing as society".

Liberal Democrats believe in individual freedom, but crucially we believe in strong communities and a society where people appreciate their environment.

The support for our petitions is welcome because it shows that, in this area, people support these values, and are prepared to sign their names to show it

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