MP criticises the Post Office – and rail unions

    Tom Tugendhat MP outside the Crown Post OfficeThe relocation of the town’s Crown Post Office is ‘backwards step’ for Tonbridge. according to MP Tom Tugendhat.

    In a letter to Roger Gale, General Manager of the Post Office, the MP said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the plan to move services into the back of WH Smith on the High Street was going ahead, especially ‘after 99 per cent of residents of Tonbridge and surrounding villages objected’.

    The branch will close on Wednesday March 8 and reopen the next day in the national chain’s store at 35-37 High Street.

    The MP expressed frustration at the fact he has failed to receive answers on ‘six specific questions’ that he posed about the move.

    They relate to accessibility issues for the elderly and disabled, as well as continuity of services.

    The lack of clarity comes despite ‘protracted correspondence’ between Mr Tugendhat and Mr Gale.

    They met in November after the MP sent him 51 pages of residents’ comments, which he had collected while petitioning against the closure.

    Mr Tugendhat said: “I made it clear that I would only accept a move were these questions able to be answered, and sadly I do not have the evidence available to me to confirm that you have made the correct decision.

    “This move is a backwards step for our town, at a moment when more independent retailers are opening up and more shops and services are looking to invest in our town.

    “It is sad that the Post Office wish to be different.”

    In response a spokesperson for the company said the decision to move was based on protecting access to services in the town.

    The transfer to WH Smith stores is taking place in 60 further branches in the UK as part of a ten-year cost-cutting plan.

    The Post Office argues that the Crown sector of its network has historically performed poorly, with losses of £46million four years ago.

    It added the new branch would be ‘fully accessible’ to all-comers and that, following the public consultation, it will provide four chairs for those waiting to be served.

    Striking comments

     Mr Tugendhat has also expressed his dismay at the unions involved in the disruption of Southern rail services.

    He called the industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) and the train drivers’ union Aslef a ‘shameless, cynical move’ that was nothing to do with jobs or money but rather a ‘political project’ to maintain control of the railways.

    In his letter to the union bosses he concluded: “This is no longer acceptable. It is dictatorial, elitist and wrong. The strikes must stop. Please call off your action now and allow people to get back to school and work.”

    The next round of strikes, which will halt all services on the Tonbridge to Redhill line, were scheduled for January 24, 25 and 27. On Tuesday lunchtime, Aslef announced they have suspended the strikes, pending further negotiations today [Wednesday 18].