Friday, 08 August 2008

'We would like a say in our way of life' Over on Podnosh Nick Booth points to a short film produced for the Edgbaston Constituency in Birmingham on the impact of post office closures. It was designed to be used as supporting evidence submitted to Postwatch. It struck me as I watched it that the defence of local post offices needs to be packaged not just as an older people's issue but in other ways also. One of the participants understandably says that 'pensioners are being pushed on one side for money.' But at the same time, it's an issue to do with the provision of a range of services at the appropriate local level, through outlets that contribute significantly to people's sense of community. Ideally perhaps there should be far more 'whole-neighbourhood' campaigning because all generations will miss these resources if they go. One of the participants describes the post office as 'part of my heritage'. It's a remark which would be easy to gloss over, but I suggest it's worth reflecting on. What I think it means is that this person places significant value on the role of the post office in his social life, over a period of time, in that locality. Some people place similar value on a pub or a park or their library. This is not a selfish version of heritage, it is heritage valued as a shared resource. What kind of society declines to recognise such value and support it where possible? As another contributor says, 'We would like a say in our way of life'. That too is an expression of a value, articulated here by ordinary people and also, as it happens, apparent in government intentions - in the empowerment white paper, for instance. Government and media have for years been lamenting the decline of local quality of life, so I don't understand how come there is so little political support for the post office network. Just because the commercial model of the post office is wobbly, it doesn't mean that the social argument in favour of providing their services at the most local level is difficult to grasp. Previously: Post offices, informality, and participation. Please serve yourself: rural post offices. The local post office: a brand in jeopardy. Post offices and social value.

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