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News Wet, Wet, Wet: WHSmith deny PO campaigners shelter from the storm!

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When the rain came

down last Saturday (Sep 3), management staff from WHSmith in Aberystwyth refused people campaigning

against the

privatisation of the town’s main Post Office shelter from the storm. The Crown Post Office in Great

Darkgate Street is threatened with closure, with its services to be privatised and moved to WHSmith’s store on Terrace Road. The Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign has pledged to picket WHSmith every Saturday until the company pulls out of the proposed deal with Post Office Ltd. The peaceful picket calls on shoppers to boycott WHSmith and use alternative shops in the town until such time as the company drops the proposal. A spokesperson for the Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign, Dinah Mulholland, told the Herald: “WHSmith won’t allow us to

stand within a certain distance of the store, and this area that we are prevented from standing in is the dry area underneath their sign!” Threatened by a drenching and

denied any shelter, campaigners decided to call it a day. They were back on Sunday

(Sep 4), however, when the weather permitted another good natured picket, handing out many flyers to locals and tourists alike. The Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign report widespread support from members of the public who do not want to see the Post Office privatised and moved from its traditional home in the heart of the town. Regardless of any other concerns, many people point out that there simply is not enough room in the WHSmith store to accommodate a post office that

Kelvin Mason Aberystwyth Reporter

must continue to provide all the Crown Post Office services.

YES, BUT. NO, BUT… The Save Aberystwyth Post

Office Campaign told the Herald: “During these last three weeks

of the consultation process there are many questions that we all need to be asking about the deal to sell off Aberystwyth Crown Post Office to WHSmith. And it is becoming clear that we cannot trust a word that either WHSmith or Post Office Limited say. “Post Office Limited say they

need to franchise Crown Post Offices because they cannot expect the tax payer to continue to subsidise the service. But the taxpayer will continue to subsidise the service anyway: through underpinning the Crown staff wages when they transfer to WHSmith and through any future redundancy payments to Crown staff after transfer. “Post Office Limited say that

Aberystwyth Post Office is losing money so they need to privatise it, that the post office’s income is falling. But Post Office Limited have been running down the retail side of the Post Office for years, carelessly and deliberately diminishing opportunities to make a profit. We’ve all witnessed the cumulative decrease in the space provided for greeting cards and stationary in the Great Darkgate Street premises. So what measures have actually been tried to protect the last Crown Office in Ceredigion? Have Post Office Limited tried to renegotiate

a better deal on the lease? Have they invited Aberystwyth retailers or businesses to consider sharing the Great Darkgate premises? Have they sought any solution at all other than a privatisation franchise to WHSmith? “WHSmith say that their

business had a bit of a downturn but they are now back in profit. But WHSmith profits were falling until very recently, they have now risen slightly but their high street shops sales are not in profit and have flat- lined. Aberystwyth Post Office has a current footfall of 2,500 people a week, despite attempts to run it down. Who is potentially saving who in the Post Office/WHSmith deal? “WHSmith say that they will

take retail items off the shop floor to make room for the Post Office and its customers. But why would Smith’s risk the loss of potential profit on retail items to make room for a ‘failing’ Post Office? “Post Office Limited and

WHSmith say that they will provide floor plans for the redesign of WHSmith to accommodate the Post Office. But they have so far only produced a single A4 sheet. They have not yet provided copies of it nor displayed A3 floor plans as requested. “WHSmith say that they would

maintain and extend the level of post office service in Aberystwyth. But the extended hours that WHSmith are offering are not extended hours with the trained and skilled Crown Post Office staff. They are extended hours on Saturday afternoon and Sunday that will be delivered by casualised staff, on much lower wages, who are not trained to the

same standard as the Crown staff. “WHSmith says that it can

and will provide a good standard of Welsh language service and disabled access. But, if so, why are they not already doing this in their Aberystwyth store? And why are Post Office Limited, who are in their own words ‘an essential government service’, doing business with a retailer with such a poor standard of provision in these legislated and regulated areas that are so vital to our way of life? “Post Office Limited and

WHSmith say that Post Office Limited is conducting a genuine consultation with the Aberystwyth public before reaching a decision on who they will enter into a franchise agreement with. But why then is the Post Office Limited letter informing the Aberystwyth community about the Public Consultation process signed by the General Manager of the Crown and WHSmith Network?”

WE WILL WIN THIS! Save Aberystwyth Post Office

campaigners believe that, until the public consultation meeting on September 26, Post Office Ltd and WHSmith thought that the post office move was ‘a done deal’. Aberystwyth took them totally by surprise, however. The companies’ representatives at the meeting were not prepared for the strength of feeling of a well-informed and articulate public. They were clearly taken aback, and publicly stated that no decision

had as yet been reached to relocate to WHSmith. Seven years ago Cadw Calon Aberystwyth (Save Aberystwyth’s

Heart) fought a successful campaign against the compulsory purchase of small business premises and homes in Chalybeate Street to develop a megalithic department store. Cadw Calon Aberystwyth supported ‘sympathetic

and sensitive

development’ in the centre of the town. Present day campaigners worry about what will happen to the post office building if Crown Post Office service do move to WHSmith. The post office building is owned by Dark Gate Properties Limited, a company in which Meirion Ellis Jones is a major shareholder. The former post office sorting office on Chalybeate Street, currently home to Crossfit Gym, is also owned by Meirion Ellis Jones. Campaigners are concerned that Aberystwyth may be confronted the prospect another inappropriate development in the heart of the town if the post office building is vacated. However, one Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign member who was also part of the Cadw Calon struggle back in the day the told the Herald : “We won that one together and together we will win again.”

BOYCOTT WHSMITH! The weekly picket of WHSmith

will continue every Saturday from 11am to 1pm. If it is bucketing down, expect the Save the Post Office Campaigners back on Sunday! A bit wet and miserable after last Saturday’s soaking, campaigners remained determined to strive for a cordial relationship with WHSmith management staff in Aberystwyth and they are pledged to show consideration for and minimise upset to shop floor staff. The Herald asked WHSmith if their decision to deny the protesters shelter might have been a little mean-spirited, but the company did not respond. Dinah Mulholland had this

message for Aberystwyth residents and visitors: “Boycott WHSmith, there are plenty of other outlets in town who will be glad of your custom. Join the campaign’s picket outside WHSmith. Save Aberystwyth Post Office!” You can contact WHSmith in

Aberystwyth to give your opinion and rate the shop at http://www. whsmith-36034.html. The Post Office consultation finishes on September 21. Save Aberystwyth Post Office Campaign is urging every member of the community to urgently contact the Post Office to give them your view. You can contact them, quoting the Aberystwyth Crown Office branch code 002647, in any of the following ways. Email, write to FREEPOST Your Comments, Respond online at postofficeviews., Phone 03457 22 33 44 or Textphone 03457 22 33 55.

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