Monday, April 21, 2008

Male Confidential

I live in a relatively small rural village. Its in commuting distance to London, but is proper rural. There's fields with cows and sheep, acres of vegetables and wheat, and lots of trees. Its an odd mix of types that live there, and we all consider ourselves pretty privileged to do so. There's those with money, usually quite a bit of it, and those with less. Not a lot in the middle, as you either own your house, and it cost a packet, or you inherited it, or you rent from one of the old estates.

We have a village shop with attached tea shop, a farm shop, two trout farms (one with its own smokery, and you haven't lived till you've had their alder hot smoked trout), a pub and a restaurant. I love it there, I really do. Most of all I like the people, to a soul they are hard working, honest and trustable. Of those that don't have much, they're the sort who work hard, and stay off the dole (indeed the sort who the abolition of the 10p tax rate will hurt the most (for those of you who haven't a clue what I'm on about, look here)). Our village just doesn't call on government services much, healthcare, schooling, and picking up the rubbish. That's about it.

The one thing that's subsidised is the village shop, it has a post office. Even that isn't subsidised much, but the lady who runs the shop, doesn't take enough to cover the costs of the Post Office. So, technically, it is subsidised.

So, in the recent "review" of post offices, it was one that has been targeted for closure. Now, believe it or not, it is used. There are a lot of retired folk in the village, and they do use it. The rest of us also do. Its bloody handy to walk down there to take out a bit of cash, or buy your stamps or send off a parcel. It really is the heart of the village. The lady who runs it, knows everyone and everything that's going on. She's lovely.

Yet its been targetted. The post office ran a "public consultation". We know that all but two households in the village signed a petition to keep it open. About a third of the households wrote individual letters arguing for keeping it open. Our MP (not a Labour MP mind), raised it in parliament.

But last week a poster was put up in the shop window saying that "After a full public consultation, taking into consideration the local opinion, this shop shall close on..." Clearly public opinion had absolution nothing to do with the decision. Now, I hate sounding a pompous fool, but the relative tax income of our village probably covers the social services of a fair sized borough. We also, as a village, don't consume nearly what we contribute. I don't mind that, I really don't. Those that have more, should contribute more.

Its just, this isn't necessary. These rural post offices contribute beyond the value of the pounds that pay for their operation. They are part of the glue that holds our society together. That may not be commercially fair to a corporate Post Office, but then I don't think the Post should be purely a commercial operation.

In this case, I think we've lost. Our shop looses its Post Office in about a month, and the lady who runs it is very scared about whether she can continue without that extra little bit of financial security it provides. When she looses the Postal counter, she also looses the steady trickle of business the rest of us provide. Best will in the world, we'll all go there less.

When is this government going to actually look and see the damage they cause?


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