Beeston Post Office: ‘It’s not a done deal’

Beeston Crown Post Office , 23 April 2016 cropped
Today we finally presented the 3,965-signature PO petition to Richard Hall, Public Affairs Manager at the Post Office (right).  I was accompanied by Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, and Richard Jackson, Leader of Broxtowe Borough Council.   The petition, signed after the surprise announcement that they were franchising it to a retail outlet,  asked the Post Office to remain as it  is.

No other issue has raised so much concern locally for many years. The Post Office is regarded as part of Beeson’s heritage: it is always busy and has recently been refurbished. It is not making a loss.  The issue was debated at Broxtowe Borough Council and members of all political parties agreed to ask the Post Office to pause and reconsider the issue.  Beeston itself, with the town developments and the tram, is an exciting place to live.

On 20 April the Post Office opened a consultation on the proposal to move it to WH Smith’s shop on the High Road.  When I talked to Richard Hill today he agreed that it was ‘not a done deal’.

This move is still only a proposal and we can stop it. I would urge you all to register your protest by emailing the Post Office at comments@postoffice.co.uk. The consultation will close on 1 June.

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Local Government Conference comes to Nottingham

Yesterday I attended Labour’s Local Government Conference. The atmosphere hummed as around 300 councillors gathered with Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, several members of the Shadow cabinet, and a multitude of Leaders of Labour Councils. Everyone came to listen and debate: ‘Labour needs to listen to local government’ and ‘MPs can make less of a difference than local councillors’ were the encouraging words that set the tone.

Councils were praised for their work leading the way in devolution, in building communities, and in protecting services.  There were many stories of Labour councils’ innovative work: for example, as well as building social housing Lewisham is building houses-to-let in the private sector for people like teachers.  The message was clear: the austerity of the Tories is a political choice and the biggest cuts are to the poorest.  We now need to get this message to the press and we must win local elections.

Too much power lies in Whitehall and it must be moved out. Nor was criticism confined to the Tories.   Labour governance was far too top heavy and the voice of Local Government needed to be heard far more. More Councils should be represented on both the NEC and the National Policy Forum.  Labour technology needs to be updated.  Regional Offices need to advise and coordinate.

Jeremy Corbyn’s keynote speech concluded the conference. Speaking with authority and without notes he reminded us that ‘we talk of honest politics, we must stand up for people, defend local services and show there is an alternative to privatisation. We stand with the NHS and for Social Care.’

It was an inspiring day for councillors.  Let us work even harder to get a Labour government back in power!

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Keep Beeston’s Post Office: petition launched

PO photo

Broxtowe Borough councillors were informed on January 19 that Beeston Crown Post Office would be closed and the business franchised: that is, downsized and located within a Beeston store, most likely WH Smiths.  This move is part of the commercial policy of the Post Office which is profit- rather than service-led.

I am organising a petition which reads ‘We the undersigned call upon the Post Office to retain Beeston Crown Office in its present premises.’  In the first hour standing outside the Post Office this morning, I collected 100 signatures: only one person refused to sign.  A thousand signatures will trigger a debate at the next Borough Council meeting in March.

Why keep the Crown Post Office?  It offers a variety of financial services, including an ebay parcel agency, that are not part of a franchise. It offers access for drivers with disability stickers.  It is in a prime position in ‘Post Office Square’ close to the new developments in Beeston Town Centre. Above all, it is well used and greatly loved.

If you want to sign up, contact dawn.elliott@broxtowe.gov.uk for the on-line petition or janet.patrick@ntlworld.com.

This story by Rachel Gorman, entitled “Beeston Post Office may reopen as a franchise inside a newsagents”  appeared in the Nottingham Post last Saturday, January 29:

Up to ten jobs could be lost if Beeston Post Office closes, say union representatives. The branch, in Chilwell Road, is one of 39 post offices across the country that may soon reopen as a franchise in either a newsagents, W H Smiths, or cash-and-carry.

Before a decision is made the Post Office will put the plans out for a six week public consultation – but even the prospect of the move has so far proved unpopular. 

“It’s unfair to the public and it’s unfair to workforce,” said regional spokesman for the Communication Workers Union, Jim Reeves.  The Beeston branch is one of 300 across the country managed directly by Post Office Ltd – known as a Crown office.  Mr Reeves said the Crown Post Offices are on target to break even this year and not the “traditional loss maker that is expected” – meaning the changes are not needed. He added: “There are approximately ten people employed there. Although they will be offered to move to wherever the franchise is, they will also be offered settlement terms if they leave.”

Beeston councillor Janet Patrick plans to organise a petition against the move and hopes to gather at least 1,000 signatures from residents.  The Labour representative said: “I think a lot of people will be upset if it closed. “If we manage to get 1,000 signatures then we can have a council debate about it in March.” She added: “In most people’s opinions the post office is an integral part of Beeston.

“I feel, particularly at this time, Beeston town centre has such wonderful potential. “I think the post office is part of that and it’s in an excellent position in town.” Ninety-one-year-old Margaret Picksley uses the post office regularly and was shocked by the decision. She said: “I’m absolutely shocked and devastated.”

A Post Office spokesman said: “We have been talking to our people at a number of locations (around 40) including Beeston, about the potential changes regarding their branch. “It is absolutely right that they are the first people to be aware of these potential changes. “When we have developed firm, detailed plans there will be a six week public consultation. “We are seeking a suitable potential retail partner because we believe that franchising, which has been used successfully in other areas for many years, will secure services in the area for the future.”

Read the full story here.

 

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What’s coming does not beat the drum

parking ticketThis old saying from Malawi reminds us that we never know what the future holds. The disastrous election results of 2015 were totally unexpected. Last year we had 18 Labour councillors and this year we have twelve. The Tories lead with 26 councillors and have a clear majority. Currently ther are two vacancies on the Council and we expect local elections either at the end of February or beginning of March. Both the vacant seats were held by Tories: Stuart Rowland died leaving a vacancy in Greasley, and Natalie Harvey, a newly elected councillor for Toton, has resigned. By-election campaigning will require hard work but it is a opportunity to reach the electorate and win Labour votes.

This will be a hard year for Broxtowe Borough as the council’s budget support from the government has been cut by 28%. Cash offices are closing and redundancies are likely. The system of governance is changing from ‘scrutiny’ to ‘committees’. This will lead to less transparency as committees will scrutinise their own work and electors will no longer be able to raise issues to be taken up by the Scrutiny groups.

Recently Graham Heal as a member of the public asked the Scrutiny Committee to publish data on members’ allowances and their attendance at committees and council meetings. Publication of this useful tool was rejected by the Tories and supported only by Richard Robinson and me. All this information is already in the public domain but very difficult to find.

This comes to wish you all a Happy New Year. Mine began with getting a parking ticket as I visited a friend’s house in Ireton Street. I could have parked in their drive or used my own visitors permit which I had in the car!

There is plenty of work for us to do: commitment and enthusiasm are essential. Life can only get better! Watch this space.

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A Good Day’s Killing?

Tomorrow is the day our parliament will decide whether we bomb Syria.

In the 90s I lived in Pakistan and I loved being there.  I have spent the last two Christmases there with my son Jonathan who works for the British government as an aid worker.

Sometimes he writes poetry:  he sent me this poem on 28 March 2014 about the suicide-bomb attacks at the court-house a mile from his home in Islamabad in which twelve people were killed.10-08-07 Islamabad Pakistan. Islamabad street view.

A Good Day’s Killing

A dozen good men will die today.
No grief yet hangs, like death’s decay,
Upon the homes of men soon dead,
Death’s call is made, but not yet heard.

They’ll go that day to court
Where law provides torts to be fought.
And men of crime are meant to cower.
Each their mother’s golden flower.

A farewell kiss, a father’s smile,
Nothing amiss to mark the mile
That stretched before to heaven’s gate
And left these men on death’s still wait.

Good men are slain for some sick cause,
Cut down without a moment’s pause.
Those final tender times remembered
As bullets thud and men dismembered.

Soon that day will news emerge
And families weep and join the surge
Of those with loved ones unaccounted
At the court as tension mounted.

“-Death, play fair and leave him be,
-He is my soul, the heart in me
.-I’ll take his place by your good side
-Just send him back to me” they cried

“No. The choice once made is made.
Your pain and grief in time will fade”
“Not mine, not mine” in tears once cried
“Can you not see I am with child”.

“I see it is a son you carry.
He, I shall not call or tally
Until his great grandson is born.
For him I’ll make the nation mourn.”

“Let nation mourn another’s child
He is my soul, I miss his smile.”
Give back my son’s dear loving father………………………..

Here it ended. Are we to kill more sons and fathers in whose name?

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Light comes to Beeston in the November gloom

Russian Dance Group on stage

Russian Dance Group on stage

This year Broxtowe’s annual Season of Lights surpassed itself. Over 600 children and adults took part in this multi-cultural event at the Methodist Church on Chilwell Road.

Chinese Dancers

Chinese Dancers

Performers in the hall included the Teremok Russian Children’s Choir and Dance group, the Chinese Language School’s Dance group, the Round Hill School choir and the U3A Ukulele Orchestra. Stalls ranged from Henna hand-painting, making Diwali lamps and Christingles to Hanukah picture-colouring. New this year was a Travelling Museum from the Caribbean showing what early immigrants brought to the UK in their suitcases.  In the church itself, people were writing Peace Prayers and making a Tree of Peace.

Volunteers served a never-ending stream of people queuing for all kinds of food: stollens, bajias, samosas. Free food is always popular!

For me the highlight was watching the Christmas film ‘The Snowman’ in a packed hall. This was powered by a variety of bicycles provided by Pedal Power. I sat back and watched my two grandsons [among others] cycling madly for 20 minutes while we all enjoyed the film.

We celebrated our diversity in the Season of Lights with dancing, music, arts and crafts, not to mention food. What a wonderful world we live in!

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Where now for Labour?

cf396f1397427954fdb06c2c3fa3862dOver fifty Labour supporters and members gathered together for a half day conference on fighting Tory policies. Most of those present were from Beeston North ward which now has 300 members, gaining nearly 200 since the last election. We met at the Boat and Horses in Beeston Rylands.

First on was Richard Burgon, the 35-yr-old newly-elected MP for Leeds East and a member of John McDonnell’s treasury team. “Whatever the outcome we will always remember the result of the Labour Party Leadership this year when Jeremy Corbyn polled 60% of the votes. Now is the time to get behind him for he has the largest mandate of any Labour leader ever elected. Politics has become more inclusive and more democratic and the party catch phrase is now ‘It is the right thing to do’.”

“What can we expect from Labour? Labour has now become the anti-austerity party challenging economic orthodoxy, promising not to revoke the Family Tax credits and to review how the Bank of England works. Labour will work as a team on welfare, housing and immigration. The problem is not the public sector debt but the private sector debt.”

More than a dozen questions and statements followed on climate change, welfare, Trident, the role of the local council and ‘what happens to all the motions the Constituency Party sends to Labour headquarters?’

This was followed by a fascinating illustrated talk on early women leaders of the Labour Party with film clips of the thirties and forties including Jenny Lee [wife of Aneurin Bevan]. A picnic lunch followed, interspersed with lots of informal debates. Then we were gathered into three groups to discuss the cuts, health issues, and climate change; analysing the problems and suggesting what can be done locally and nationally. Everyone was invited to sign up for ongoing groups on these and other issues such as education.

milanFinally Milan Radulovic, leader of the Labour Group on Broxtowe Council, gave a passionate speech on how politics affects every part of our lives. He answered the question’ What can we do?’ by giving examples from Broxtowe Borough Council under the Labour Party. Climate change means clean energy, promoting the environment, solar farms and reducing global warming. The cuts means supporting people like his constituents in Eastwood who have no future, no holidays and no shopping trips.  It means being at the end of a phone whenever you are needed. Eighty people who have to depend on foodbanks in Eastwood every week.  The present cuts are throwing millions into poverty. Social care means building social houses and Dementia Friendly bungalows and fighting the stigma of dementia.

What we can do is important. Milan concluded ‘I’m in the Labour Party to get a spirit of togetherness and to show there is another way’.  We went on our way inspired and determined to find that other way.

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Dog on a tram [guest post]

In Beeston I boarded a tram.  It was quieter than the Metro I use at home, but the journey was slower because there were more stops.  I sat nonchalantly looking across the aisle towards my fellow-passengers.  A small boy was curled up on the nice tidy floor staring happily at Quintcey.  Quintcey looked him in the eye.  I gazed round the tram and saw lots of prohibitions displayed on a window.  Not only were roller blades and cigarettes denied use, but dogs were banned as well.  I had time to make an imaginary tram ride with a tame leopard hauling a unicycle before we rumbled across the railway – just like the old Great Central – then ran down the hill to Parliament Square.  I still wonder why trams all over Europe invite dogs to travel, but not those in Nottingham.

It was half past five on a Saturday afternoon and the tram I left was full of passengers. We crossed the line with care and waited on the platform for the Toton tram.

I wondered what Nottingham does to earn a living, and, as we stood, there an answer came.   A dozen well dressed Chinese students came giggling onto the platform.  Most were carrying bags of fashion clothes from the city’s up market retailers.  They trotted their high heeled way onto the Toton tram, and we followed – me and my cocker spaniel.  It was getting dark and fireworks glittered in some back gardens.  There was not much sign of Hallowe’en, save for a pile of unsold pumpkins stacked outside an optimistic greengrocer’s.  The tram sailed quietly through the suburbs, gradually losing travellers, until we arrived at Beeston, just in time for tea.

David Stewart-David

Buggy on tramDavid, an old University friend with a life-long interest in light rail, visited from Newcastle to ride our new tram line.   He didn’t spot a more generous facility offered by NET: passengers can board on their buggies!

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