‘Utter lack of care’: Campaigners pledge to fight closure of Brooke Road sorting office

Brooke Road sorting office. Photograph: Google.

Campaigners are pledging to fight the impending closure of a much-loved delivery office in Clapton, accusing Royal Mail executives of an “utter lack of care” in making the decision.

Residents in E5 received confirmation this month that, starting on Monday 16 November, they would have to travel to Leyton to collect their undelivered mail, despite the opposition of Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, councillors on both sides of the Town Hall chamber, and thousands of petitioners.

In a letter to the campaign, Royal Mail restated their plans to close the site, saying that the decision is “disappointing”, but pointing to the deteriorating state of the venerable building on Brooke Road, which according to councillors has served Clapton since 1892, as well as increased opening hours in Leyton and redelivery options available to customers.

Campaigner Susan Downing said: “Royal Mail are missing the point. We are too far away from Leyton to collect in person, whatever the opening hours. Redelivery arrangements as a method of receiving packages are impossible for many residents, regardless of redelivery address options.

“They acknowledge that their response will be a disappointment, yet have not sought to engage further regarding local solutions or a way of maintaining Brooke Road Office. The notice letter places a lot of emphasis on packages being left with neighbours as a solution both at initial delivery attempt and redelivery, as we are now told that there’s no need to visit the office.

“As a community we will try to support each other in this, but feels like we are being asked to do their job for them. This change is happening just after entering another national lockdown of unknown length. We are being told to minimise contact with others and stay at home. Yet we are being put in a position where we will need to be constantly doorstepping our neighbours to retrieve or hand over parcels. We need a local collection point solution, at the very least to see us through this current lockdown and Christmas period.”

Downing added that she is now exploring adjudication with the Ofcom-certified Postal Redress Service to raise a complaint, with support for the petition continuing to grow and representatives from local government now attempting to help.

Local government representatives joined with the campaign in October to warn of the danger of closing the centre, dubbed an “E5 icon” at a council meeting, to the borough’s most vulnerable residents who rely on its services, especially for elderly residents cut off by the digital divide and people who live in flats who have a harder time retrieving parcels than those in street properties.

Cllr Ian Rathbone said: “As a local Labour councillor I have been fighting with my colleagues for many years to try and keep this service in Clapton. I take my hat off to Susan Downing and other residents who have been fighting so hard to get Royal Mail to listen to the residents who are their customers.

“It’s a sad reflection on privatisation of such services which belonged to us that they are no longer accountable to us, or anyone, except to making money. Even now they could change their mind and at the least keep the service going during his period of time in the run up to Christmas when everyone is sending presents.

“The image of Mr Scrooge comes to mind in that the Royal Mail are saying to their vulnerable customers ‘Bah, humbug’ when asked for help.”

Correspondence from Royal Mail to campaigners explains that the Brooke Road site had moved to Leyton, with the “vast majority” of local postmen and women now working out of that delivery office.

“I can assure you that the change […] will not impact the delivery services provided by the postmen and women that serve routes in the Clapton area. When we looked to move the remaining operation we liaised with all Post Offices in the local area to establish if they had the capacity to hold items for customer collection but regrettably, no Post Offices were able to provide this. The decision was made to retain the building short term as a Customer Service Point for customers to collect items.

“The building at Brooke Road is rapidly deteriorating and would need considerable investment to maintain it. In moving operations to Leyton Delivery Office, we are moving into a purpose built building where we will be able to provide both a more efficient service and a safer working environment.”

Hackney Labour, who are also campaigning for the site on Brooke Road to remain open, have said that the loss of the sorting office is emblematic of “why privatisation of public services does not work.”

A spokesperson added: “The Royal Mail is only interested in making profits as a privatised company and so not concerned very much about its customers.

“Regrettably it’s the vulnerable members of the community who will suffer from the withdrawal of this service as they rely on collecting their parcels, or their friends and family collecting for them, from the local sorting office.”  

Clapton residents have been advised by Royal Mail that if an item is unable to be delivered first time, they can arrange for a free redelivery on a more convenient day, including Saturday, including to a different address in E5, instead of having to travel to Leyton, or for 70p to a post office of the resident’s choice.

When approached for comment in response to campaigners, a Royal Mail spokesperson said: “After careful consideration Royal Mail decided to relocate its Customer Service Point from Clapton to the Leyton Delivery Office. The lease on the site had come to an end. We worked with the local Post Office to find a suitable solution which regrettably did not work.

“The vast majority of parcels are currently being delivered first time. If we cannot deliver an item first time, we attempt to deliver to a nearby neighbour or a customer nominated neighbour. Customers can also rearrange a redelivery free of charge on a day that is convenient for them.”

You can find campaigners’ petition here.