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     SPECIAL MEETING OF THE CROSS-CUTTING ISSUES OVERVIEW & SCRUTINY
                               COMMITTEE

 REPORT OF THE ASSISTANT CHIEF EXECUTIVE – CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT
                         AND PARTNERSHIPS

                                            25 JUNE 2008


POST OFFICE NETWORK CHANGE PROGRAMME CONSULTATION

1.       Purpose of Report

1.1      The purpose of the report is to:

         (i)        Provide the Committee with information regarding the Post Office’s Network
                    Change Programme consultation, with particular reference to the six Post
                    Offices identified for potential closure in the Bridgend area;

         (ii)       Clarify the Committee’s Community Leadership role as far as it relates to the
                    facilitation of local stakeholder’s ability to participate in the Post Office’s
                    consultation process.

2.       Connection to Corporate Improvement Plan

2.1      Consideration of this topic links to the aims of Bridgend’s Community Strategy in
         ‘Improving quality of life for all’ and ‘Having a more inclusive County Borough’. It
         also links to the following key priorities of the Council:

                   Valuing our Valleys
                   A Diverse and Sustainable Economy
                   Opportunities for our Disadvantaged Communities

3.       Background

3.1      The Post Office Closure Programme has previously been subject to consideration
         by both Council and the Cross-Cutting Issues Overview & Scrutiny Committee in
         2004 when it first became apparent that Post Office Ltd intended to progress the
         reshaping of its Network.

3.2      On these occasions Members had opportunity to discuss with Post Office
         representatives the likely impact closure of some of the smaller Post Offices within
         the Bridgend area would have upon local communities.

3.3      Although no formal response to the Post Office resulted from either meeting,
         informed discussions took place regarding the potential implications of the closures
         and the reasons why fewer people are using Post Office services in local branches.

3.4      More recently in August 2007, Council debated the Post Office Closure Programme
         in respect of issues of access and choice of service provided to the public. It was
         decided at this meeting that a letter be sent to Post Office Ltd requesting that it

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         reconsider its Network Change Programme for reasons relating to the social
         significance of Post Offices operating within the County Borough.

4.       Current Situation

         Consultation – Post Office Ltd Network Change Programme

4.1      As part of the National Post Office Network Change Programme, a number of
         consultation exercises are currently taking place in relation to the closures,
         including one for South and West Wales. The Post Office’s Area Plan Proposal is
         attached at Appendix A for information.

4.2      In its proposal document (page 7) , the Post Office communicates the objective of
         the consultation process:

         “From the outset of the Network Change Programme, Post Office Ltd has made it
         clear in its communications that the Programme is not designed to provide a forum
         for debate on whether branches should close, but it is about ensuring that Post
         Office Limited has the best available knowledge to allow it to make the most
         informed decisions about which branches should close”.

4.3      As such, the Post Office states that it:

         “…welcomes views and comments regarding access to future post Office services
         in this area. In particular, we ask for your views on accessibility to the nearest Post
         Office branch.”

4.4      Included in the proposal are six Post Offices in the Bridgend area that have been
         identified for closure. These are as follows:

                          Bryncethin
                          Commercial Street
                          Heol-Y-Cyw
                          Wyndham
                          Coychurch
                          Penyfai

4.5      To assist with the public’s consideration of likely Post Office closures, the Area Plan
         Proposals provide details of the Outreach Services for South and West Wales,
         (described in section 4 of the document). Members will note that the majority of the
         Outreach services cover rural areas in West Wales with no services proposed for
         the Bridgend area.

4.6      Similarly, branch access reports for the six Post Offices in Bridgend are detailed at
         Appendix B which provides additional information relating to the distance of
         alternative Post Office services, nearest bus routes, opening hours and a
         demographic profile of each area.

5.       The Role of the Cross-Cutting Issues Overview & Scrutiny Committee

5.1      Under the Local Government Act 2000, Overview and Scrutiny Committees have
         wide-ranging powers of review and scrutiny and the ability to make reports and

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         recommendations on any matters relevant to the area and its inhabitants. In this
         way Committees have the power to consider matters which are not the responsibility
         of the local authority, but which nevertheless affect communities within the County
         Borough.

5.2      In achieving this, Overview and Scrutiny Committees support the Council's
         Community Leadership role through analysing the approaches of a variety of
         external agencies/public bodies to issues affecting the wider community. Whilst the
         Committee’s power covers external agencies, recommendations are not binding on
         outside bodies and currently there is no statutory obligation on those organisations
         to respond to any recommendations made.

5.3      Due to the recent public interest relating to the Post Office’s Network Change
         proposals as far as it may affect the Bridgend area; it has been decided to hold a
         Special Meeting of the Cross-Cutting Issues Overview & Scrutiny Committee to
         facilitate discussion with a range of stakeholders as to the likely impact closure of
         Post Office branches would have upon local Communities.

5.4      As representatives of Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd will be present at the meeting,
         views expressed by stakeholders will be considered as part of the wider
         consultation process relating to the Network Change Programme.

6.       Purpose of the Special Meeting and Role of Invitees

6.1      To clarify, the purpose of the Special Meeting is to provide the opportunity for
         stakeholders to participate in discussions in a structured and informed way.

6.2      Heulyn Gwyn Davies, Senior Welsh Affairs Manager for Royal Mail Group, Wales
         and Dave Wall, External Relations Manager, Post Office Ltd have agreed to attend
         the meeting to provide a presentation and answer questions regarding the rationale
         driving the Network Change Programme, the consultation process and the
         provision of alternative access to Post Office services. The presentation is attached
         at Appendix C for information.

6.3      Post Masters and Mistresses for the six post offices identified for closure have also
         been invited to provide a perspective, as well as Keith Richards, Executive Officer
         for Wales, National Federation of Sub Postmasters. Additionally, a representative of
         Postwatch, the independent watchdog for Postal Services, has also been invited to
         contribute to discussions.

6.4      To ensure an overview of the needs and priorities of local communities may be
         presented at the meeting, local elected representatives have also been invited to
         participate. In this way ward Members will have an opportunity to help influence
         decision making as far as issues of access and social inclusion are concerned.

         Consequently the following Members have been invited to attend:

         Penyfai –Cllr M Wilkins
         Coychurch – Cllr PA Evans
         Bryncethin – Cllr G Thomas
         Commercial Street, Nantymoel - Cllr D Jones
         Heol-Y-Cyw – Cllr C Davies

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         Wyndham, Ogmore Vale – Cllr R Shepherd

6.5      Cllr G Thomas has sent his apologies for the meeting, but has, however, submitted
         a written statement which is attached at Appendix D.

6.6      In consideration of the Committee’s key role as community advocates and leaders,
         Members are reminded that their role in the meeting is to facilitate local
         stakeholders’ ability to participate in the Post Office’s consultation in an informed
         fashion.

6.7      The meeting of the Committee is not intended to represent the formal views of
         Bridgend County Borough Council in relation to the Post Office Ltd’s consultation
         process as it concerns the Network Change Programme and Members are not
         required to make formal recommendations on behalf of the Council in this matter.

7.       Effect upon Policy Framework & Procedure Rules

7.1      None.

8.       Legal Implications

8.1      Bridgend County Borough Council must seek to ensure that its residents have equal
         opportunities and access to services in the area.

9.       Financial Implications

9.1      None.

10.      Recommendation


         The Committee is asked to:

         (1)   Receive the presentation from Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd;

         (2)   Facilitate community focused discussion relating to the Network Change
               Programme Proposals which might contribute to the Post Office Ltd’s
               consultation process.



Contact Officer
Rachel Dare-Edwards, Scrutiny Officer
Tel: 01656 643696
Email: scrutiny@bridgend.gov.uk

Background Documents
Bridgend County Borough Council Corporate Improvement Plan 2007 – 10
Bridgend Community Strategy 2005 – 2016
Bridgend County Borough Council Agenda and Minutes – 28 January 2004
Bridgend County Borough Council Cross-Cutting Overview and Scrutiny Agenda and
Minutes – 22 April 2004

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Post Office Network Change Programme website:
http://www.postoffice.co.uk/portal/po/jump2;jsessionid=EZTXVJ3MN0FCYFB2IGFEPLQU
HRAYWQ2K?catId=63400714&mediaId=57600693




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