About

this is a blog by ed mayo, starting from day 1 in january 2008 and continuing on into the future. I wish you well.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Welcome to the world! I hope your new outfit is more successful than its predecessors.

    I had a very helpful service from “Julie” on your consumer direct telephone system.
    Despite being bemused by my query about our post office, and my attempts to find the rump of postwatch within your organisation, she remained unflustered and calm, and eventually helped me to talk to someone who DID know something about the new structure. This took about 20 minutes, and involved a great deal of effort on her part.

    The reason for this email, however, is to make sure that the rest of your people are made aware of who is dealing with such queries, since your website says:
    The closure programme will undoubtedly be a challenging time for post office customers. Postwatch, one of Consumer Focus’s predecessor bodies, has been involved in monitoring Post Office Ltd’s proposals, and working to ensure they take into account the needs of affected communities. This arrangement will continue until the end of the closure programme, with Postwatch staff transferred over to Consumer Focus to continue their work for customers. The level of service customers receive from their consumer body is therefore consistent from the start until the end of the closure programme.

    Please will you ensure that this takes place.

    Thank you

    Tony Graf

  2. I thought you may be interested in this:

    THE EXCEPTIONAL CASE OF
    DRYSLWYN POST OFFICE AND SHOP.

    REASONS WHY THE CLOSURE
    DECISION SHOULD BE REVIEWED AND REVOKED.

    Contents
    Management Summary.

    1) Introduction.

    2) Dryslwyn and Adjacent Communities.
    2.1 Description of Dryslwyn
    2.2 Adjacent Areas
    2.3 Geography and Economy
    2.4 Population Distribution
    2.5 Public Transport and Access to other Facilities

    3) Dryslwyn Post Office/ Shop.
    3.1 History
    3.2 Current Situation
    3.3 Needs of Residents

    4) Post Office Proposals.
    4.1 Criteria Used to Determine Closure

    5) Issues Arising from and Challenges to Closure Proposals.
    5.1 “Consultation” Exercises
    5.2 Data Used to Support Closure
    5.3 Accessibility
    5.4 Use of Outreach System
    5.5 Social Consequences
    5.5.1 Effect on Shop
    5.5.2 Effect on Vulnerable
    5.5.3 Effect on Senior Citizens and Non-Drivers
    5.6 Effect on Future Development of the Area
    5.7 Effect on the Environment: 3 million party balloons

    6) Support for the Campaign.
    6.1 Local Petition
    6.2 Local Political and Council Support
    6.3 Media Coverage

    7) Conclusion.

    Enclosures

    1) Petition

    2) Copies of letters and emails from:
    2.1 Glenys Kinnock/Eluned Morgan M.E.P.
    2.2 Jonathan Evans/Jill Evans M.E.P.
    2.3 Adam Price M.P./Rhodri Glyn Thomas A.M.
    2.4 Nerys Evans A.M.
    2.5 Nicholas Bourne A.M.
    2.6 Paul Morris A.M.
    2.7 Mark James, Chief Executive: Carmarthenshire County Council

    3) Press coverage
    3.1 Towy Valley Guardian 14 May 2008
    3.2 Carmarthen Journal 21 May 2008
    3.3 Carmarthen Journal 28 May 2008
    3.4 Carmarthen Journal 11 June 2008
    3.5 Towy Valley Guardian 18 June 2008

    4) Copy of letter written on behalf of Mr W.R. Heath.

    5) Maps of the area:
    5.1 Llanegwad, Llanfynydd and Llangathen.
    5.2 Vicinity of Dryslwyn post office and shop.

    6) Carmarthenshire directory of bus services and travel guide

    7) Photograph of dangerous site proposed for outreach unit

    Management Summary
    1. Introduction
    The attached submission has been compiled by an action group formed from the three community councils surrounding Dryslwyn post office and shop. Its purpose is to persuade Post Office Ltd. to reconsider its proposal to close the current post office in Dryslwyn and replace it with Outreach services, by demonstrating that this is an exceptional area which they have misjudged.
    2. Structure of Document
    The document has been compiled in the form of a detailed report with a large number of enclosures containing supporting data or designed to indicate the level of support for the submission and the strength of feeling against P.O. Ltd’s proposal.
    The submission provides details of this exceptional area, its population, and the shop/post office, of which the consultation team are clearly not aware; issues which arise from the proposal and form the basis of our challenge; and a summary of the support for our cause received from many different influential areas.
    3. The Submission
    It is our view that the way in which the Post Office Ltd proposal has been arrived at is flawed, not only in the process and the final decision, but in the actual data used, the way in which it has been used, and the disregard for its social and environmental consequences.
    We most forcefully ask that the National Consultation Team reconsiders its proposal and submits the case for “further review” in accordance with the Memorandum Of Understanding with Postwatch.
    4. Issues subject to Challenge
    The following are the main areas of challenge to the proposal. For each of them, detailed evidence is presented in the main body of the text.
    4.1 We challenge the way in which the “consultation” has been carried out. In fact we use the word “sham”, and point out where the intentions of the 2006 National Consultation Document and the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding with Postwatch have not been followed. We highlight failures in the consultation process, both before and after the announcement on June 3, and the failures in democracy which have been made.

    4.2 We criticise Post Office Ltd for refusing to provide information on the trading figures or periods used to arrive at the decision and identify how they may have used out-dated information in their analysis. This refusal has also prevented our preparing an adequate business case in rebuttal.

    4.3 The “one size fits all” approach to the demographics of the area, in P.O.Ltd’s Branch Access Report, is demonstrated to be inappropriate to the situation in Dryslwyn, which is uniquely not a village setting. The exceptionally dispersed nature of the population here makes the “1 mile radius” criterion unfit for purpose, and its use has caused misleading analyses of social and accessibility issues.

    4.4 We examine the various other criteria used to make the decision, and the way those criteria have been applied and transgressed, and the apparent anomalies and inequalities in the assessments made by P.O.Ltd.

    4.5 We point out that the true social consequences of the decision have been ignored, and detail what these will entail, particularly in the disregard for vulnerable and less able people. This has been coupled with an unrealistic evaluation of public transport, and therefore a failure to pay due regard to accessibility.

    4.6 We stress the inadequacy and the really dangerous nature of the Outreach service proposed for Dryslwyn. We demonstrate how none of the alternative schemes can provide an adequate service for the area. We also criticise the “no support where outreach has been proposed” general rule as having not been examined adequately in this specific case.

    4.7 We identify the effect upon the environment of the carbon dioxide emissions of the extra travelling caused by closure. Enough to fill 3 million party balloons.

    1) Introduction

    1.1. This document has been produced and presented by an action group formed by concerned residents and members of the three community councils surrounding Dryslwyn to challenge the proposals for closure of the Post Office and its replacement by Outreach services.

    The views expressed in this document are supported by the inhabitants of Dryslwyn, and of surrounding areas, who rely on the Dryslwyn post office and shop services.

    1.2. Although many residents have responded individually, this document is a compilation of their views canvassed in response to the six-week consultation period offered by Post Office Ltd. The document reflects their real anger at the way in which the implementation of Government policy by Post Office Ltd is being carried out.

    1.3 In the following pages, not only do we show that none of the proposed Outreach services will meet the needs of the residents of Dryslwyn and its surrounding areas, but also we demonstrate the dire effects, both on community life and on the environment which would result from the closure of the post office and shop.

    1.4 We also bring to the fore the changes which will occur in our society, post peak oil, which require a serious re-examination of the trend towards centralisation as opposed to localisation, although we accept that these are not issues currently considered by Post Office Ltd.

    2) Dryslwyn and Adjacent Communities

    2.1 Description of Dryslwyn
    Dryslwyn today is an area of extremely dispersed population, with no easily defined centre other than its crossroads on the A40 between Llandeilo and Carmarthen. It is not a village. This makes it very dissimilar to the close-knit villages of Llangadog, Brechfa or Cwmifor. It lies close to the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Aberglasney Gardens, and is set in a predominantly farming area of great natural beauty dominated by Dryslwyn Castle.

    Dryslwyn Castle stands on top of a hill overlooking the Tywi valley, which has been described as “the best part of the most beautiful valley in Wales.” It attracts an increasing number of tourists, important to the economics of the area, who stay in the numerous hotels, holiday cottages, bed and breakfast establishments, and time-share holiday villas.

    The roads in the area are generally unclassified and narrow, and wind their way up hill and down dale linking small settlements and dispersed dwellings, but from any vantage point farms and cottages can be seen throughout the landscape.

    Extremely dispersed rural areas such as this are treated like the poor relations of urban and village areas –losing out on sources of funding, development programmes and other support because they do not have the same density of population, or easily identified areas of deprivation.

    The “1 mile radius” demographic used by P.O.Ltd just does not apply here and its use has led to a serious under-evaluation of social and accessibility factors.

    2.2 Adjacent Areas
    Dryslwyn post office and shop serves a 15 mile stretch of the A40, going north and south 10 miles. An area of about 150 square miles.

    It lies close to the mutual boundaries of three community councils: Llangathen, Llanegwad, and Llanfynydd. Villages and settlements in the area include Abergorlech, Llanfynydd, Capel Isaac, Court Henry, Broad Oak, Llangathen, Gelli Aur, Felindre, Llanegwad, Llanarthne, Pontargothi, Nantgaredig and Felingwm Uchaf and Isaf.

    In none of these areas is there now a shop or post office, and their residents rely heavily on Dryslwyn for many of their services. Residents of all these places support the views expressed in this document, as can be seen in the enclosed petition.

    2.3 Geography and Economy
    The area covered by Dryslwyn post office and shop is rural and dominated by family farms and associated businesses. Hence the road network is sparse and comprises many B class or unclassified roads, with the one A road being single carriageway. The settlements are well spaced, varying between 2 and 8 kilometres apart. There is a particularly great need here to sustain strong communities to avoid the very real danger of rural isolation. Maps of the area can be found in enclosure 5.

    Dryslwyn is not a sleepy area full of farmers and commuters. It is a busy community. Many of the people are farmers, and many have small or large businesses, from artists and craftsmen to major agricultural contractors. We have a time-share holiday centre, a centre for people with learning disabilities, thriving and well-respected pubs and restaurants, a major car-sales and repair business, one of the largest domestic appliance sales and repair businesses in Wales, and businesses connected with tourism, equestrian activities and wildlife. There are also many individuals or small groups of partners working from home in a wide range of occupations, such as analysts, e-bay dealers, artists, engravers, dealers in small parts for motorcycles, suppliers of parts for veteran cars, holiday cottage proprietors, playgroups, researchers, authors and many more. They all depend upon access to postal services.

    The following table details the approximate distances by road between the areas mentioned earlier and the car park in Llandeilo. The roads used in this analysis do not include single-track roads with passing places.

    Distance to Llandeilo car park
    Area (Km) (Miles)
    Llanfynydd 13.8 8.5
    Capel Isaac 8.25 5.1
    Court Henry 9.35 5.8
    Broad Oak 5.75 3.6
    Dryslwyn 8.85 5.5
    Llangathen 5.75 3.6
    Gelli Aur 6 3.7
    Felindre 9.35 5.8
    Llanegwad 12.85 8
    Llanarthne 12.75 7.9
    Pontargothi 13.75 8.5
    Nantgaredig 15.25 9.4
    Felingwm Isaf 17 10.5
    Felingwm Uchaf 18 11

    It is clear from the table that the majority of areas, and those dwellings in-between, fall outside the “6 miles” criterion.

    It can also been demonstrated by a glance at the map that the “as the crow flies” measure is inappropriate in our geography/topography. We hope the consultation team will take due note of these findings.

    2.4. Population Distribution
    The population in this area is just over 6000. (Carmarthenshire 005. Source Office for National Statistics). In recent years the population has expanded with an influx of new residents into scattered developments of single dwellings or small groups of houses. As mentioned earlier, this is not a village setting, but a very dispersed population, which renders the “1 mile radius” criterion used by P.O.Ltd invalid. We hope that the following analysis will be of assistance in the re-examination of this area by the consultation team.

    The total population of the area is a mix of the following groups:-
    • long term residents, whose families have lived here for several generations, many associated with the farms in the area, or other local businesses

    • more recent arrivals, many of whom are families with children, who have moved into new housing developments in the area over the past 10/15 years, and who commute to employment in towns or cities such as Carmarthen, Swansea and even Cardiff

    • retired residents, some of whom are elderly.

    The following table (based on the last available national census) indicates the proportion of retired people, sick and disabled people, those looking after home and family and the percentage of those known to have limiting, long –term illnesses.
    Census 2001 % of population
    Carmarthenshire area 005 % of population
    England
    Persons with limiting long term illness 19.49 17.93
    Retired 15.5 13.54
    Looking after home / family 5.53 6.52
    Sick and disabled 6.55 5.3
    Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS)

    From this table it can be seen that the population has a high proportion of older and less able members, who have a great need for locally provided services.

    25% of the pupils in the primary school nearest to Dryslwyn post office come from “economically disadvantaged areas”, 18% are registered for free school meals. (Source: ESTYN report June 2004)

    The population has increased by 3.3% since the national census in 2001, according to the mid 2006 population estimates of the ONS.

    The increase in population is due to additional houses being built, and this shows no sign of abating. Planning applications for well over 100 additional houses have been made since the last census. A current proposal for Llanfynydd would involve the building of 12 additional houses, including “affordable” units, not homes for the wealthy. This trend could be accelerated under the new Government policy of building on greenfield sites.

    Housing developments in these areas are rarely for large numbers of dwellings in one location, they tend to be in ones or twos scattered amongst the clusters of other houses.

    2.5 Public Transport and Access to other Facilities
    Dryslwyn and its adjacent areas are so poorly served by public transport that it is virtually unusable for fulfilling day-to-day requirements.

    The following tables show the total services available (the full timetable is attached as enclosure 6).

    285
    Llanfynydd to
    Llandeilo

    Friday only

    Outward am
    Friday only

    Return
    pm
    Llandeilo 10.25 Llandeilo 1.30
    Broad Oak 10.31 Pen-y-banc 1.35
    Cwrt Henri 10.36 Salem 1.40
    Llanfynydd 10.44 Capel Isaac 1.49
    Capel Isaac 10.52 Llanfynydd 1.57
    Salem 11.01 Cwrt Henri 2.05
    Pen-y-banc 11.06 Broad Oak 2.10
    Llandeilo 11.16 Llandeilo 2.16

    277
    Outward

    Wednesday
    & Saturday
    only
    277
    Return
    Weds
    only
    Sat
    only
    Capel Isaac 9.50 am Carmarthen 2.00 pm 3.00pm
    Llanfynydd 10.00 am Abergwili 2.07 pm 3.07pm
    Cwrt Henri 10.10 am Nantgaredig 2.13 pm 3.13pm
    Felindre 10.14 am Pontargothi 2.15 pm 3.15pm
    Pontargothi 10.21 am Felindre 2.21 pm 3.21pm
    Nantgaredig 10.23 am Cwrt Henri 2.28 pm 3.28pm
    Abergwili 10.29 am Llanfynydd 2.36 pm 3.36pm
    Carmarthen 10.36 am Capel Isaac 2.44 pm 3.44pm

    280/281
    Llandeilo to Carmarthen Mon to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat
    am am am am am pm pm pm
    Llandeilo 6.40 7.43 9.33 11.33 12.33 2.33 4.55 6.25
    Broad Oak 6.46 7.49 9.39 11.39 12.39 2.39 5.01 6.31
    Cwrt Henri 6.51 7.54 9.44 11.44 12.44 2.44 5.06 6.36
    Pontargothi 6.58 8.02 9.52 11.52 12.52 2.52 5.14 6.43
    Nantgaredig 7.00 8.04 9.54 11.54 12.54 2.54 5.16 6.45
    Whitemill 7.03 8.07 9.57 11.57 12.57 2.57 5.19 6.48
    Abergwili 7.06 8.11 10.01 12.01 1.01 3.01 5.23 6.51
    Glangwili 7.10 8.15 10.05 12.05 1.05 3.05 5.27 6.55
    Carmarthen 7.17 8.23 10.13 12.13 1.13 3.13 5.35 7.02

    280/281
    Carmarthen to Llandeilo Mon to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon
    to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat Mon to
    Sat
    am am am am pm pm pm
    Carmarthen 7.20 9.20 10.20 12.20 2.20 4.20 5.45
    Glangwili 7.26 9.27 10.27 12.27 2.27 4.27 5.52
    Abergwili 7.30 9.31 10.31 12.31 2.31 4.31 5.56
    Whitemill 7.34 9.35 10.35 12.35 2.35 4.35 6.00
    Nantgaredig 7.37 9.38 10.38 12.38 2.38 4.38 6.03
    Pontargothi 7.39 9.40 10.40 12.40 2.40 4.40 6.05
    Cwrt Henri 7.47 9.48 10.48 12.48 2.48 4.48 6.13
    Broad Oak 7.52 9.53 10.53 12.53 2.53 4.53 6.18
    Llandeilo 7.58 9.59 10.59 12.59 2.59 4.59 6.24

    It can be seen that, although there is a bus each week, on a Friday, to travel from Llanfynydd to Llandeilo and back, the distance is such that the time taken is well over half an hour in each direction. Furthermore it is necessary to stay in the town for two and a half hours before returning, making the round trip at least three and a half hours. God help the poor traveller who misses the return bus…they must wait until next week!

    In the other direction, on Wednesdays or Saturdays residents of Llanfynydd have the luxury of a 36 minute trip to Carmarthen, a three and a half hour wait, and another 36 minute trip back. Again, they have a serious problem if they miss this lonely bus…a three day wait.

    Areas close to the A40 are better served, but, for example, a resident of Pontargothi wishing to travel to either Llandeilo or Carmarthen has to face a round trip of two and a half hours minimum.

    None of these options is of any use for the day-to-day requirements of anyone.

    2.5.1 Easy Access
    For those residents with limited mobility there is a further critical issue, as only the 280/281 service is “Easy Access”, so if people live away from the A40, which is the case for 90% of the residents of the area, they are effectively isolated from the towns.

    This, we hope, amplifies the information in the P.O.Ltd Branch Access Report, which blithely states “The nearest bus stop is outside the branch…” with no regard to the type of bus, its destination or its frequency.

    2.5.2 Walking/cycling
    Walking and cycling on the major or minor roads is hazardous. There are very few stretches of any roads which have pavements and the A40 is a busy highway, nearly all of it with a 60mph limit, often exceeded.

    2.5.3 Taxis
    The taxi fare for a return trip from Llanfynydd to Llandeilo and back is approximately £30.

    2.5.4 Summary
    It is clear from this section there is no sensible or reasonable access to other post offices despite the assertions made by P.O.Ltd.

    3) Dryslwyn Post Office and Shop

    3.1 History
    The post office and shop were opened before 1900, and were taken over and run by the grandfather of the current owner just after the First World War. There are local residents whose families have shopped there all their lives for three generations.

    In recent years the shop has made a loss, suffering from competition in nearby towns with the growth of supermarkets accessible by car, and more recently suffering from “planning blight” due to the threat of closure restricting investment in stock and facilities.

    The owners have willingly balanced the books in most years at their own expense for the benefit of the community.

    In the last few years, shops and post offices in three surrounding areas (Llanarthne, Nantgaredig and Llanfynydd) have closed, leaving Dryslwyn to serve an area of huge size: 150 square miles, with a much more dispersed population than has been considered by P.O.Ltd.

    3.2 Current Situation
    The turnover of the postal part of the Dryslwyn operation is well over £500,000 per annum. The shop turnover, as mentioned earlier, has been depressed for a number of years.

    Post peak oil, we contend that the cost of travel by car to Llandeilo or Carmarthen will become unsupportable, and there will be a resurgence of demand for local shop and post office facilities…particularly if P.O.Ltd become more aware of the deficiencies in their marketing to date. There are still many people unaware of the many services available in their local branches.

    There is potential for enormous growth of revenue and profit in the shop, as demonstrated by the shop in nearby Brechfa, but only if investment were made, perhaps supported by the Post Office Development Fund, and by the owners or the community. This would improve the fixtures and fittings and the marketing and extend the range of stock and opening hours.

    In the present circumstances, such investment would be imprudent, but with the removal of the threat of closure, it could begin, commencing a rising spiral of satisfied demand and profit. Already local residents have pledged significant funds (approaching £5000) to achieve this goal. All that is needed is a breathing space, during which the community’s emerging perception of the increased necessity and value of this local resource can drive the shop into a prosperous and self-reliant state.

    3.3 Needs of Residents
    The post office is essential to Dryslwyn to meet the day to day needs of all residents, the particular needs of local businesses, and the special needs of older and immobile members of the community. It is a significant support for people on low incomes or benefits, the unemployed and single parents.
    Whereas younger, more mobile, residents may be able to meet their needs using alternative locations, older and less mobile residents can not do so, as shown earlier (para 2.5).
    One local resident whose needs cannot be met under the proposed scenario is Mr W.R. Heath of Valley View, Llanfynydd, who cannot walk any distance. He can get into and out of his vehicle, but needs to park close to the post office to transact his business. This is impossible for him in Llandeilo, and fraught with difficulty in Carmarthen, a round trip of 32 miles. He wrote the following in our petition:
    “Strong objection to closure of my post office as I am severely disabled and need to use (it) weekly to get my money and to pay bills. No other post office (is) near where I can park. It is a lifeline for people in my predicament. Thank you”.
    A copy of a letter to P.O.Ltd written for him is presented as enclosure 4.
    Another local resident’s business requires the daily posting of bulky A4 envelopes which will not fit into ordinary letterboxes. He will have to undertake a 25 mile round trip daily to Llandeilo in order to continue to earn his livelihood.

    There are families in the area who have opened saving accounts for their children with the post office: building good habits and self reliance, with the likelihood of future loyalty to the card account. This, too, is at risk.

    There are many other people with stories like these who will be badly affected. No adequate account has been taken of these economic and social issues by P.O.Ltd in reaching their decision.

    4) Post Office Proposals

    Post Office Ltd. has proposed closure of Dryslwyn post office, and its replacement with an Outreach Service of 5 hours per week. It has offered a six-week consultation period, phrased to suggest this is with regard to the type of Outreach Service required, with no clear offer to review the closure decision.

    We will show that none of the Outreach services would meet the needs of this area, and we expect a “further review” of the closure decision itself in the light of the issues raised in the following section of this document, as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding between Post Office Ltd and Postwatch.

    4.1 Criteria used to determine closure
    This is an area of concern, in that there has been no clear information as to exactly what criteria have been used in arriving at the closure decision. In addition, Post Office Ltd and Postwatch have been unwilling, or maybe unable, to release the data used. Therefore, we have used all the information available to us, including the December 2006 National Consultation Document, and the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between Post Office Ltd. and Postwatch, to determine the major criteria which appear to have been used.

    According to the 2006 National Consultation Document they are:-

    • accessibility. The document lays down the minimum access requirements for post office services;

    • over-provision and non-viable branches. The document states: “rationalisation will principally affect a combination of least-used branches and non-commercial branches in areas of over-provision where people can find alternative branches nearby”;

    • the willingness of sub-postmasters to leave the network.

    It appears that the first criterion has been used at a purely superficial level, basically in accordance with the National Consultation Document, but without giving adequate attention to the geography and demographics of the area, which we stress again are unusual, if not unique, even in South Wales.

    The interpretation of the second criterion appears to be:-

    • weekly total of post office customers;
    • cost to Post Office Ltd; and
    • size of business (of which there is no clear definition).

    The third criterion which appears in the National Consultation Document is not relevant here.

    From the apparent anomalies in treatment of some branches, however, it appears that another criterion may have been used: “Have we got a mobile unit passing this way? If not, leave this branch open. Otherwise close it.”

    This may be a rational business decision, but it is outwith the required criteria.

    In the following section we will examine each of these areas in order to challenge the closure decision and the Outreach proposals. Post Office Ltd has refused to produce the detailed data used to make the decision, so we have been forced to collect our own data on which to base the challenge.

    5) Issues Arising from and Challenges to Closure Proposals

    5.1 “Consultation” Exercises
    The word “consultation” is in inverted commas to highlight our view that the process has been a sham, designed to support decisions already made. We view with some scepticism the statement that the final decision on closure has not been made, and that our representations will be considered before a decision is reached. We have serious concerns, verging on anger, at the unacceptable way in which this process has been carried out. These are examined below.

    5.1.1 “Prior to the commencement of local public consultation, each Area Plan has been subject to a twelve week intensive pre-consultation process which includes a substantial amount of local stakeholder engagement”.
    This statement appears in P.O.Ltd’s website, and gives an impression of detailed and widespread discussions in the local community having taken place.
    This is not so, and is deliberately misleading. The only “stakeholder” to have been “engaged” is the owner of the shop.

    5.1.2 The poster in Dryslwyn post office states that the closure is the result of the completion of a national public consultation exercise. We have found no evidence of anyone in this area, at any level, being consulted on the potential consequences of closure of Dryslwyn post office. It appears that any consultation was with organisations which considered it on a countrywide basis, based purely on Government policy and the acceptance of that policy.

    The overall closure plan was not put out for local public consultation, nor was the Area plan, until June 3. Without local input, no serious consideration of the needs of people affected can have taken place.

    5.1.3 For the current stage of the consultation process the publications give the impression that the closure decision has been made, and that we are merely asked to state our preference for Outreach services. We are concerned at being asked this when there has been no consultation as to the adequacy of any Outreach service for Dryslwyn and adjacent areas, or as to the consequences of the proposed closure for the community, the local economy and the environment as a whole.

    5.1.4 The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Post Office Ltd and Postwatch clearly indicates that Community Councils are to be included in the list of consultees, but this appears to be only after the final decision has been made. We cannot comprehend why approaches could not have been made to the Community Councils with regard to either the National Consultation Exercise, or this proposed closure, at an earlier stage. As an example of the range of information and contacts available, one Community Councillor in the affected area is also a playgroup leader, a mother of children, runs a farming business and a tourism business and is involved in the running of the Young Farmers’ group. Her views could have added sanity to these proposals had they been sought.

    P.O.Ltd failed more seriously in this area as well, by making the assumption that only the community council wherein the affected branch is located will expect to be consulted. Dryslwyn post office and shop falls close to the mutual boundaries of three councils (Llanegwad, Llanfynydd and Llangathen), of which only two were invited to send a representative to its meeting on June 10. This is a failure of democracy as well as an indication of P.O.Ltd’s view that only people close to the branch are affected, which is just wrong in this sparsely populated area.

    5.1.5 Post Office Ltd made it clear when meeting with the sub-postmaster that they had already made their decision several months before the public consultation was due to start, yet “gagged” him to prevent any public discussion or review, denying the possibility of a meaningful dialogue which could have avoided the current unsatisfactory situation.

    5.2 Data Used to Support Closure
    5.2.1 As we have already stated, Post Office Ltd has refused to provide the turnover and cost data on which the closure decision was based. The reluctance to produce this data prevents comparisons being made between branches and the preparation of a detailed business case for retention.

    5.2.2 We are concerned at the lack of information about the trading period used by P.O. Ltd to make their decision, which adds to our concern as to the competence with which this exercise has been carried out. The current trading pattern is in no way indicative of a post office serving a small, remote community. Recent closures of three nearby branches before this exercise commenced brought more business to Dryslwyn, which, if taken into consideration by P.O.Ltd must have made a material difference to the decision.

    5.2.3 Comparison between this decision and those affecting other branches leaves us at a loss:
    Llangadog is a branch quite similar to what Dryslwyn could become, and will remain open.
    It is the same distance as Dryslwyn from Llandeilo.
    At the mid point between Llangadog and Llandeilo lies Cwmifor, also remaining open.
    Cwmifor is about 1 mile “as the crow flies” from Bethlehem, which remains open as well!

    We cannot see a justification for the retention of three branches which together serve an area smaller than that which Dryslwyn serves alone, unless it is founded on the availability and full use of a mobile unit. If so, this is an unacceptable deviation from the established criteria.

    5.3 Accessibility
    5.3.1 Geography
    We note the Government response to an e-petition on this subject which states:
    “…Post Office Ltd. will need to take into account local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography…”

    The table in paragraph 2.3 gives the distance involved between the relevant settlements and Llandeilo, which is the nearest full-time post office left in the network under the current proposal. This is the option which would be open to users of Dryslwyn post office needing services not provided by the Outreach service, or at times when Outreach is not available.

    From most of the locations served by Dryslwyn, Llandeilo is beyond both the 3 and 6 mile limits set out in the Government policy document, as measured by road to the nearest car park. However, a recent response to a letter to Postwatch stated this distance is to be measured as the crow flies. In no published document is that fact stated, and it makes a nonsense of assessing accessibility in the areas currently served by Dryslwyn, because the roads follow sometimes tortuous paths around hills and over the few bridges of the many rivers. This demonstrates the inappropriateness of the assessment made by Post Office Ltd regarding accessibility.

    5.3.2 Cost of Alternative Access
    Paragraph 2.4 deals with the population distribution of the affected areas. Over 40% of the residents of these areas are retired, disabled or suffer from long-term illnesses. For the ones that cannot drive, despite free travel passes they have limited access to public transport as described in section 2.5, so the majority will have to rely on taxis costing £30 for a return trip. Those who can drive are, or will be, unable to afford the escalating rise in the cost of fuel, which will rise even more, post peak oil. The impact of this closure on these vulnerable groups will be inexcusable.

    The effect on small businesses which drive the local economy of the area will also be severe, as described in paragraphs 2.4 and 3.3 and below in 5.4.2. All the efforts made in diversification as the farming economy has slowed down will be cast into doubt. The increases in cost and manhours, whilst small viewed individually, will amount over time to a loss of competitive advantage in their markets, with inevitable consequences.

    5.3.3 Public Transport
    The table in section 2.5 details the very limited bus services available to the area. It can be seen from that table and the timetables enclosed that the services are totally unusable as access to alternative P.O. services on a day-to-day basis.
    Even if the service were improved, the cost of fares to the places listed may be beyond the means of those requiring the service. For senior citizens and people with limited mobility, the proposed PO services would give them problems which are totally unacceptable and unnecessary.

    We cannot imagine that the Government ever envisaged an area of the size served by Dryslwyn being placed in such an impractical situation.

    5.3.4 Demographics
    The Branch Access Report prepared by P.O.Ltd includes only the population within 1 mile of the branch. This might be a relevant measure in an urban setting, or even a close-knit rural village setting such as Llangadog or Cwmifor, but we hope that the evidence in this document has already shown how inadequate and inappropriate this measure is for the people served by Dryslwyn, where the population is spread over a much greater area. In particular, the demographics used (age distribution, car ownership etc) are very different in the wider area from those used in the access report. (see para 2.4), making this assessment not fit for purpose in the exceptional area served by Dryslwyn.

    5.3.5 Trading patterns
    The Branch Access Report prepared by P.O.Ltd to support its decision also refers to “average number of customer sessions per week” in Dryslwyn post office. The figure shown is 100-199, whereas we have surveyed the premises during May and June 2008, and have a figure of approximately 200. This again raises the doubt as to the trading period used by P.O.Ltd in its analysis as highlighted in para 5.2.2

    5.3.6 Local access
    The Branch Access Report prepared by P.O.Ltd to support its decision refers to a “step” at the entrance to the branch. This threshold, rather than step, is approximately 2 inches high, with a very rounded profile. It is no more a significant barrier to the disabled than the edge of the ramp proposed at the rear of the mobile Outreach unit.

    5.4 Use of Outreach System
    We are asked to consider which type of Outreach Service would best suit Dryslwyn. The answer is simple – NONE.
    5.4.1 Hours of Outreach Service
    The time allocated in the proposal is totally inadequate for the needs of Dryslwyn. We are also particularly resentful of the arbitrary decision by P.O.Ltd that no other support for closing branches will be considered if an Outreach service has been proposed. We gladly offer our 5 hours to sites elsewhere which have been allocated an even more restricted time if this constraint upon alternative support is removed.

    A total of 300 minutes is proposed, in which to serve approximately 200 customers each week. Assuming that customers all come in perfect order with no gaps, and allowing a few moments for one customer to leave and for the next customer to come forward, this would mean serving at a rate of around one customer per minute. In our survey this was not achieved as an average.

    The reality, of course, will be that customers will arrive at random and there will not be a smooth flow, and that some series of transactions by some customers will take several minutes. Mobile units are also likely to be delayed.

    This means that queues would be inevitable if the proposed hours of availability were adopted, even in normal circumstances. At times such as Christmas they would be utterly intolerable.

    5.4.2 Services provided by Outreach
    5.4.2.1 We are asked to state which service will satisfy the needs of Dryslwyn, but the detail of the actual services available is unclear. We see from the Post Office Ltd. website that the Mobile and Hosted services will provide “core” services whilst the Partner and Home Delivery services will provide “reduced” services. We have little information as to what “core” and “reduced” actually mean. Does “core” include all the services currently provided? Including the personal assistance given to less able people? This would be our minimum requirement. Any reduction in services, as in the Partner and Home Delivery options, is altogether unacceptable, so here we will review only the others.

    5.4.2.1 The Mobile service.
    Even if this provides the current services in full, it is unacceptable and unsuitable for a variety of reasons:

    The inevitable queuing described above will involve people waiting outside the unit in inclement weather, which is unacceptable, particularly for the less able, older residents and mothers with children, which we have already shown to be significant sectors of the community.

    In addition, having to meet a van in a time slot of one particular hour on certain days would cause real problems:
    A farmer’s work is driven by the seasons and the needs of their animals, not by the clock. It would be impossible to drop the milking or shearing, the harvest or lambing, and rush off to meet a van. Similarly, a person who depends upon being able to post out their work would have to watch the clock and juggle their other commitments, including the needs of their children, in order to catch a non-existent bus, to try to get to the van.

    This means that many customers would not be able to get the service they require at the time it is needed. Businesses would certainly not be prepared to endure the inconvenience of such a service, and would be forced to increase their costs and time consumed in using other post offices.

    Inevitably, this will mean that the circulation of goods and money is slowed down because it just won’t happen…people will miss the van or defer their trip to another day.

    The customers of these businesses will suffer a degradation of service, and businesses themselves will lose banking interest. The alternative is to drive an extra 12 miles (with the increasing cost of fuel as it is) to do their postal business at a time of their choosing in Llandeilo. Either way, this is a loss of competitive edge, time and money that cannot be borne in a struggling rural economy.

    5.4.2.1.1 Location of mobile unit
    The proposed location for the mobile outreach service is described in the Branch Access Report as “in layby opposite BT exchange building”. There is no such layby. There is a strip of tarmac beside the carriageway which is approximately 4 feet wide.

    Whatever else this document achieves, we hope that this decision is reviewed most seriously. The proposed location is extremely dangerous. A larger photograph is attached as enclosure 7, but is reproduced here.

    The carriageway is 5 metres wide and there are no pavements. It is within the 60mph zone, and approximately 50 metres from a major junction with the A40 which is a known accident black-spot at which there have been a number of fatalities in recent years.

    Even with a family saloon parked in the “layby”, the space available for other vehicles to pass is limited. Carmarthenshire’s Road Traffic Policing Officer, Sgt. Alun David, has not been consulted on this proposal, and points out that “any vehicle parked beside the carriageway which causes an obstruction forcing other traffic to slow down or manoeuvre is committing an offence.” He is in no doubt that this will apply in this instance.

    The concept of a mobile unit parked here, and perhaps 10 or 20 customers’ cars as well, some of them attempting to turn round, with people trying to get to the unit walking on the carriageway, or queuing outside it, is just terrifying. There will be accidents.

    We are not aware of any other, more suitable, locations within any reasonable distance of the existing branch. The current owner of the shop will not countenance any request to park a mobile unit in his motor sales forecourt next door.

    5.4.2.3 The Hosted service.
    The current owner will have no option but to close the shop if the post office service is withdrawn, so the premises will therefore not be available.

    The only other possible location for a hosted service would seem to be the Reading Room, and this is unsuitable for the following reasons:-
    • Access to the hall is up a very steep entrance track unsuitable for many people, especially those with restricted mobility.
    • The design of the hall is such that there is nowhere suitable to carry out such an operation without disruption to other hall activities.

    All in all, Outreach is not a valid option for Dryslwyn. The only acceptable way forward is to revoke the closure decision.

    5.5 Social Consequences
    5.5.1 Effect on Shop
    A major concern for the residents of Dryslwyn is the knock-on effect of the PO closure on the shop. We have already touched on this. However, this is a major issue which has not even been considered by Post Office Ltd.

    The inadequate service provided by Outreach will inevitably result in those residents who can drive visiting the Post Office in Llandeilo or other neighbouring towns, increasing the tendency to carry out other shopping at the same time. The ultimate effect would be to reduce the viability of the shop, if indeed it were to remain open.

    Such a loss will have a terrible effect on a community with such a large proportion of retired residents. It has been stated that closure produces a 60% migration to other offices or commercial banks. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect similar migration of business from the shop which, simply, could not survive such a loss.

    Carmarthenshire County Council have made it clear that they are willing to work with communities to support areas such as ours, devastated by this potential loss, but it is particularly unfair that Dryslwyn may be excluded by P.O.Ltd from this support simply because P.O.Ltd have proposed an (inadequate) Outreach service in its stead.

    We can understand that in general the revenues from Outreach are required to prop-up revenues of Core branches, but we cannot believe that this is necessary in the specific case of Llandeilo, nor that the alternative has been adequately costed in this specific instance. Indeed, the ridiculously small time allocated to this and other sites for the mobile unit indicates that an attempt has been made to “fit a quart into a pint pot” and by removing our allocation of hours from the mobile unit, more realistic allocations could be made for other areas to use it.

    5.5.2 Effect on the vulnerable
    In its Summary of Government Proposals (part of the national consultation document), the DTI states that “……..Post Office Ltd will implement this process……giving priority to protecting vulnerable communities in villages”.

    We have seen no evidence of any intention to implement this policy as regards Dryslwyn; in fact the use of inappropriate statistics indicates the opposite.

    Age Concern has expressed its fears to the Government that ill-thought-out closures could leave vulnerable people even more isolated and struggling to access essential services. Closure of the post office and shop would certainly create such a situation in the Dryslwyn area, with dire consequences for its older people, the infirm and those without transport.

    5.5.3 Effect on Senior Citizens and Non-Drivers
    5.5.3.1 Senior Citizens
    Paragraph 2.4 describes the population distribution here, and clearly shows the problems that a high proportion of residents in these areas may have with personal mobility.

    5.5.3.2 Non-Drivers
    A large number of non-drivers (not quantifiable) rely greatly on the shop and post office for day to day necessities. This includes many families where the wage-earner is away all day and those left at home have no means of transport.

    The whole question of sustainability of the area comes into question. The shop and post office forms the focal point of the community, especially for the old and those with no transport. The loss of the post office and shop would create an almost impossible situation for these groups. The effect of changing to Outreach services and the concomitant certainty of losing the shop will cast a doubt upon their continued ability to remain in the area.

    The proposals being made would destroy what exists and take away the possibility of it ever being improved, so changing the very way of life of the community, at a time when the tide is turning away from centralisation towards increasing localisation. We are sure that this was not the intention behind the Government’s policy.

    5.6 Effect on Future Development of the Area
    In planning terms the areas served by Dryslwyn are currently classed as “sustainable” in the Unitary Development Plan, and as such are open for consideration for further housing development. We have already mentioned, in paragraph 2.4, the growth in the population due to new housing developments. Should the area lose the post office and shop, it may no longer fall into the sustainable category, and there may be no further major development. Existing residents may move elsewhere, eventually leaving a “ghost town” totally dependent upon private transport to survive. As this becomes more and more unaffordable, the area will die.

    5.7 Effect on the Environment – 3 million party balloons
    The inevitable increase in the use of cars, as a result of these proposals will greatly increase the carbon footprint of those involved. This is contrary to Government environmental policy and sheer madness in the current situation.

    A survey of the numbers of customers using the shop and/or the postal services carried out in May 2008 reveals that there are approximately 550 transactions in the shop and 200 in the post office each week. Approximately 75% of the “postal” customers also used the shop. The total number of visits to the premises was 700 per week, or 36,400 per annum.

    If the shop is closed, these visits will be made to Llandeilo or Carmarthen instead, but people will try to combine their trips, so the number of additional trips may be less than 36,400 by, say, 50%. Therefore we have assumed the total number of extra trips to be 18,000 per annum, and for simplicity we have assumed they all go to Llandeilo. Of these only 3000 are by bus, for reasons explained in section 2.5, so 15,000 cars will make the trip.

    The additional distance will be 17km for the round trip, so the extra distance driven will be 15,000 x 17 = 255,000 kilometres per annum. Given the average carbon dioxide emissions of the vehicles used in this rural setting to be around 200 gm/km (based on Department for Transport figures, Hansard 4 Feb 2008) the extra carbon dioxide emitted will amount to 51,000 kilograms per annum.

    This is enough to fill 3 million party balloons, and is equivalent to the entire emissions of 7 average Welsh houses for a year.

    Even were the Government’s target for vehicle emissions of 140gm/km to be reached, the emissions would still fill over 2 million party balloons.
    (Source: Energy Trends, December 2005; Department of Trade and Industry Goodwin, J. et al, August 2005, Local and Regional CO2 Emissions Estimates for 2003, NETCEN, AEA Technology Environment, for DEFRA.)

    If such an increase were reflected around the whole country the effect on the environment would be substantial. This at a time when we should be striving by all means possible to avert further climate change.

    6) Support for the Campaign

    We think that the media coverage of our campaign to save our Post Office has been sufficient to demonstrate the support we have. However, we consider it beneficial to list and describe the support in the following paragraphs.

    6.1 Local Petition
    We have received enthusiastic support from local residents and from people in the surrounding areas. The enclosed petition (Enclosure 1) contains well over 300 signatures. They were all collected at the post office; there has been no door-to-door canvassing of support.

    6.2 Local Political and council Support
    6.2.1 Our local MP, Adam Price, has supported us throughout the campaign He addressed a public meeting of 60 residents at the start of the campaign.
    6.2.2 Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Nerys Evans, our Assembly members, also gave their support at the public meetings. Nerys Evans has written strongly worded letters to Post Office Ltd., and Postwatch.
    6.2.3 County Councillors Williams and Davies have given vigorous support to our campaign and also joined our public meetings.
    6.2.4 The Community Councils of the surrounding areas have also formally supported the campaign and jointly made representations to P.O.Ltd and Carmarthenshire County Council.
    6.2.5 The Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, reflecting the press statement made by its Leader, Cllr. Gravell, has stated his concerns to P.O.Ltd at its meeting on 10 June.
    6.2.6 Copies of emails and letters of support from all the above, and other MEPs and Assembly Members are to be found in enclosure 2.

    6.3 Media Coverage
    6.3.1 We have attracted extensive radio and newspaper coverage of the campaign so far, demonstrating the widespread interest in our situation. Examples of the press coverage devoted to the particular and exceptional issue of the closure of Dryslwyn post office and shop are in enclosure 3. We have not included the general clamour of protest about all the other proposed closures which have hit Carmarthenshire so very disproportionately.

    7) Conclusion

    In this document we have laid out our case why the Post Office Ltd proposals for Dryslwyn should be revoked. We have made a case which we consider is just and fair.

    Therefore we expect, on behalf of the residents of Dryslwyn and adjacent areas, and in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding with Postwatch, a complete review of our situation and a reconsideration of the closure proposal.

    7.1 We can understand that Post Office Ltd. is bound by Government policy and must implement that policy in a way that satisfies the commercial and financial needs of its organisation and that of the Government.

    We believe that the Government has made its decision in pursuit of “market-driven” ends, and whilst we condemn this approach in areas where it is in conflict with the needs of citizens, we recognise that this is not an argument relevant to this document.

    Although we find it deplorable, we also recognise that Post Office Ltd are not required in this process to take account of the effects of its decisions upon the environment.

    7.2 However, a Government’s prime responsibility is to its citizens, not only in respect of financial prudence, but particularly in respect of their welfare. We consider that Post Office Ltd, acting on behalf of the Government, its shareholder, has failed to fulfil that requirement, by:

    • failing to carry out a process of adequate national consultation at a level which would have revealed the welfare problems of this exceptionally dispersed rural community at an early stage, and before the closure plan was evolved;

    • carrying out a local consultation exercise which has provided insufficient and seriously misleading data and information to those involved, and also allowed such a limited time for responses;

    • using a “one size fits all” standard for its demographics which is demonstrably not fit for purpose in the exceptional situation of Dryslwyn and therefore underestimates the social and accessibility determinants used in its decision;

    • excluding Dryslwyn from any possibility of support from other agencies (particularly Carmarthenshire County Council) as a general UK-wide rule (on the grounds that an [inadequate] Outreach service has been proposed), without examining the reality of whether this is specifically relevant here.

    • failing to consult with appropriate agencies (e.g. the Police), or even any local resident, before deciding to park their mobile Outreach service in an accident black-spot;

    • failing to use an assessment system which would give the required weight to social consequences, resulting in a lack of appreciation of the catastrophic effect this closure will have on this dispersed community, particularly with regard to the old and infirm and the environment;

    • failing to use an assessment system which would give the required weight to the catastrophic effect this closure will have on the local economy;

    • failing to apply its own criteria for closure, particularly in respect of geography and accessibility, comparability and fairness.

    7.3 Post Office Ltd has also failed in its responsibility for financial prudence by spending a large sum of money on television advertising of “the people’s post office” and has shown insensitivity in screening such adverts at a time of severe public anger at the closure programme. Had better marketing and training been in place years ago, this situation might not now pertain.

    7.4 The situation being created in Dryslwyn has been recognised by many influential supporters of our campaign who universally condemn the decision made. Frankly it would be a surprise if, in the face of such united support for Dryslwyn to be treated as an exceptional case, P.O.Ltd did not respond by doing so.

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