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Bengeworth and Cleeve Prior Post Offices are being closed down because Post Office Ltd made simple errors of fact and ignored their own criteria when deciding on closures.

That's the view of Evesham MP Peter Luff in light of Post Office Ltd's publication of the Network Change Programme: Area Plan Decision Booklet. As a result of the errors, Peter has criticised the whole consultation process as a "sham".

In his letter to Post Office Ltd., Peter drew attention to the fact that Post Office Ltd had maintained South Littleton was in Gloucestershire, many miles from its real location in Worcestershire. Despite Peter pointing this out several weeks ago, the Decision Booklet reveals no effort was made to correct it. He writes in the letter,

“At a private meeting with Post Office Ltd I drew the attention of your colleagues to the fact you had completely overlooked South Littleton post office. Bizarrely, it transpired that it had been wrongly located by your systems in Gloucestershire, many miles from its true home. This embarrassment was compounded by their realisation that this meant it was actually closer to Cleeve Prior than one of the two identified "alternative" offices at Offenham. In fact Offenham is 3.5 miles from Cleeve Prior and South Littleton is only 2.5 miles away. However the decision document says,

" the second nearest alternative branch, Post office Offenham branch "

Commenting Peter said:

"This blindingly obvious error is bad enough in the first place, but to not correct it once they were made aware of it is unforgivable. It shows they just weren't listening to hard facts, never mind to valid views. I conclude we were all just wasting our time and that shocks me and depresses me in equal measure."

Peter's criticism of the decision to close Bengeworth Post Office was even more scathing. In his letter he points out a series of glaring errors such as false assumptions about parking facilities at the main Evesham office, the failure to take into account the impact of new house-building in the area and the number of vulnerable people dependent on Bengeworth Post Office, the reliance on inaccurate information about local bus journeys and the absolute disregard given to compelling evidence that the local economy will suffer badly from the offices closure.

In his letter to Post Office Ltd. Managing Director Alan Cook, Peter wrote:

"All this leads me to the reluctant conclusion that the whole consultation process was largely a sham, that the decisions had already been made, and nothing was going to change that. It is also clear that the six-week period was, as my committee [the Commons Business and Enterprise Committee] has consistently warned, ridiculously short and prevented your organisation from dealing with the representations it received effectively.

"The closure of Bengeworth post office is going to hurt not just the excellent sub postmistress, Pearl Bennett, and her team, but the whole community. It is so sad that your organisation appears not to have given them the courtesy of listening properly to their opposition and addressing their legitimate concerns fully and honestly. Had you done so, I know with absolute confidence that you would have been swayed by the arguments and that Bengeworth would have been saved."

Commenting Peter said:

"I have always maintained that Bengeworth office should remain open. When I was told that wasn't to be, I expected some pretty concrete reasons. Yet the whole process has been sloppy. This pathetic document shows that Post Office Ltd. were just going through the motions, and I am angry. Pearl and the people of Bengeworth deserve so much more - and should certainly have been given the courtesy of being listened to.


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