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The village postie ‘to disappear’

01 November 2013

DIOCESE OF PORTSMOUTH

"Community resource": the Revd John Owen with his local postman, John Luker 

"Community resource": the Revd John Owen with his local postman, John Luker 

A PRIEST in a rural benefice is fearful that the privatision of Royal Mail will take a heavy toll on community life.

The Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with Privett, near Petersfield, Hampshire, the Revd John Owen, is worried that the pursuit of profit and shareholder benefits will mean that his local postman will be replaced by anonymous couriers.

"Our postman, John Luker, has collected and delivered letters here for 32 years," Mr Owen said on Monday. "He doesn't use a sat nav, he knows the narrow lanes like the back of his hand, he never gets lost, and knows most of our 800 parishioners by name. If something is amiss, John is likely to notice it on his round, and will raise the alarm.

"Rural postmen and women are community resources. John represents that bit of community capital and cohesion which does so much for the well-being of the rural community. He's not unlike the landlord of the local pub, and the people who have been running the village shop for years. They help to bind the community together.

"You can't quantify what the postman, the pub, and the village shop do for their communities. But when they are gone, the community is the poorer, the countryside emptier, and its attractiveness as a place to live is diminished.

"There is an anxiety here about how it will pan out for rural areas. We do wonder how it will be economic to make deliveries in places such as our three villages when they have shareholders to support. We want to believe official assurances that a daily collection and delivery will continue in these hamlets, but we are sceptical.

"Our suspicion is that there might be a weekly collection or delivery service, and that our villagers will have to drive into a town like Petersfield to post urgent items or collect mail. And what about the time and carbon emissions expended by private firms getting lost in unfamiliar country lanes?"

Mr Luker said: "I have 283 calls to do, and drive about 36 miles a day from our office in Petersfield. I know any private firm wouldn't have the same kind of local knowledge that I have. I love these villages, and I know about 90 per cent of the people who live here, by sight or by their Christian names. It will be hard to replace that."

Last week, shares in the Royal Mail postal service rose by more than 50 per cent to £5, after the Government sold a 62-per-cent stake in the firm. Postal workers have balloted to strike on 4 November over a new pay-and-conditions deal.

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