A new Post Office for Ham: Lib Dem campaign success

Robin_and_Ham_councillors_and_cows_C_SMALL.jpgOn Thursday 3rd April 2014, the Liberal Democrat councillors for Ham and Petersham announced that there will be a Post Office again in Ham.

The new Post Office Local will be in St. Richard’s Square at Newsdip, 171 Ashburnham Road. Liberal Democrat councillors David Williams, Brian Miller, Sue Jones and local Lib Dem Ham and Petersham campaigner Penny Frost never gave up trying to get a replacement Post Office after the last post office in the area closed on Ham Parade in 2005 under Labour's closure programme.  

Robin Meltzer, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Campaigner for Richmond Park and North Kingston congratulated David, Brian, Sue and Penny: "Ham and Petersham's local councillors have worked hard for the last few years to make the “Post Office for Ham” campaign a success.  Brian, using his many years of commercial experience, helped to draw up a detailed business plan for Newsdip.  David organised the fundraising to ensure that the considerable shop conversion work will be partly paid for by donations from local residents.  Without both of these it may not have been possible to make the application to Post Office Limited."

Local Lib Dem Ham and Petersham campaigner Penny Frost said: "A new post office will make Ham and Petersham a complete community as well as strengthening our local shops."

Councillor David Williams said: "Mr and Mrs Patel have made a real success of running the newsagents, confectioners and tobacconists since they took over the business in August 2012 after Mr Rizvi, the previous owner, sadly died.  They have helped to make the St. Richard’s Square shops more successful.  It is very important to Ham and Petersham that we keep our small shops, on Ham Parade, Back Lane, Ham Street, and in Ashburnham Road. So let's celebrate a hard won success in a big improvement for our local shops."

New Post Office In Ham: HOW IT HAPPENED

In 2010, Edward Davey MP was appointed the new Lib Dem minister for post offices. He was appalled at the way the post office service had been run down under previous governments. 4,000 post offices had been closed by the Conservative Government before 1997, and another 4,000 were closed by the Labour Government from 1997 to 2010.

So in 2011 he announced that post office closures were a thing of the past, and that the sub post office network would be changed to operate on a mutual basis.  Each post office would be part of a more independent network, and would not be threatened with closure.  For the first time in decades, Post Office Limited was encouraged to open new branches.

Ham and Petersham is one the communities to benefit from this Liberal Democrat policy.

In 2004 and 2005, the Lib Dem councillors campaigned to keep at least one of our local post offices. The post office on Friars Stile Road on Richmond Hill had been lost in December 2003, and the one in Back Lane in Ham, was axed in August 2004.  Ham Parade post office, the only one left at the time, was also threatened.  

The post office on Ham Parade got a three months’ reprieve after mounting a strong campaign with tremendous support from local residents.  Despite all this, the post office was closed in February 2005.  In 14 months, the ward had gone from three post offices to none!

Liberal Democrat Councillor David Williams then made several attempts to persuade the Post Office to open a new service in Ham, including a meeting at the House of Commons arranged by Susan Kramer, who was Richmond Park's MP.  David took a senior Post Office manager around Ham and Petersham, but nothing was offered.

One of the points David kept making was that the Post Office guidelines said that 90% of people in England should be within a mile of a post office.  The percentage is higher for London.  Yet all of Petersham and a third of Ham are more than a mile from Tudor Drive and Richmond post offices.

Breakthrough

The breakthrough came in 2011.  David Williams asked Kingston & Surbiton MP Ed Davey, and then Lib Dem Post Office minister, for advice and help.  He put David in touch with the Chief Executive of Post Office Limited.

Team_and_Mrs_Patel_SMALL.jpgSoon afterwards David was asked to visit Post Office Limited.  They had done more work on the possibility of a post office in Ham, and thought it was possible in St. Richard’s Square.  With their permission David talked to Mr Rizvi, the newsagent in St. Richard’s Square.  He had previously been a sub postmaster in Hove, and was very interested. Sadly, Mr Rizvi was in poor health and died early in 2012.

David Williams talked to the new owners of the newsagent, Mr and Mrs Patel.  They understandably wanted to get the business up to speed before they could consider becoming a post office as well.

By 2013 they were keen to take on the post office project, so Brian Miller and David Williams got to work again.  

Liberal Democrat Councillor Brian Miller said: "It has taken a long time to get a post office back in Ham, but after nine years we’ve finally got there."