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Old Street post office closure to hit Islington’s elderly

Pensioners lose ‘godsend’ service and social lifeline as branch is axed

23 August, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Jack Lewen: ‘We will all lose out if they do this’

A CROWN post office is facing the axe, the Tribune can reveal.

The flagship post office in Old Street has been earmarked for closure with a replacement counter service due to be set up in the back of a Co-op store nearby.

The move has sparked outrage from pensioners who described the important service as a “godsend” to them, while councillors and union chiefs have warned of the creeping privatisation of the postal service.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) says staff working in independently run franchises are poorly paid and get less training.

“The Post Office has a policy of destroying postal services in north London,” said Clive Tickner, the CWU’s north London area rep.

“It’s devastating people’s lives. It’s about dumbing down jobs and getting people to work on minimum wage.”

The closure will leave just one Crown post office left in Islington. Those in Holloway, Archway, Finsbury Park, Crouch End, Swiss Cottage, East Finchley and Harringay have all closed in recent years despite huge pressure from residents to keep them open.

Jack Lewen, 95, was dismayed when he heard the news as he collects his pension and pays his bills there every week.

The post office in Old Street that has been earmarked for closure in January

Mr Lewen, who lives in St Mary’s Tower, off Whitecross Street, said: “We will all lose out if they do this.

“My neighbour, she is elderly, she uses the post office.

“Every Monday I go down to pick up the pension. Sometimes we meet down there, we have a chat or whatever. I’ll miss that. But the most important thing is to pay the rent, it’s a godsend.”

About 20 years ago the post office was based in a shop at 59 Old Street but it was closed in the early 2000s and reopened in its current site at 205 Old Street.

Mr Lewen and his wife Rose had campaigned against the ­closure of the original service.

The government provided £210million of financial support to the Post Office in 2012 but this figure was slashed to just £50m this year.

Bunhill ward councillor Phil Graham said: “We got told only the day before they published the consultation and we are furious it was not discussed with us before.

“It’s like they want to get it out quietly without anyone noticing, but we will fight this tooth and nail.”

There will not be a Post Office cash machine in the new Co-op site, nor will there be DVLA Photocard Driving Licence renewal and Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence application services.

The Post Office’s Head of the Directly Managed Branch Network, Steve Blampied, said: “We believe our proposal is the most effective way to secure the long-term viability of Post Office services for years to come.”

A consultation started on Wednesday but the post office is expected to shut in January.

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