Allnutts Post Office: re-opening campaign succeeds!

If some of the worst news this week was contained in Alastair Darling’s statement of doom, the best news for me was the news that Allnutts Post Office is to re-open. On Tuesday my fellow Liberal Democrat councillor Janet Whitehouse rang to tell me that she had just come out of a meeting with Shanhaz Javid from Allnutts Stores and the county council. At the end of the meeting a contract had been signed to re-open the post office in about 20 weeks time!

Cllr Janet Whitehouse, Shanhaz Javid and local residents show off the petition signatures calling for the re-opening of Allnutts Post Office

It was a tremendous blow for local people when the post office shut in February 2008 as part of the Labour government’s Post Office closure plan. Hopes were raised when Essex County Council announced, in a blaze of publicity, plans to re-open some of the offices. My fellow ward councillor Janet Whitehouse received positive indications from county council officers. But so far only three post offices in Essex have actually started serving customers again. So when county council officials visited Allnutts Stores in February this year to say that the post office would remain shut it was disappointing, but not an enormous surprise .

Thankfully neither Shanhaz, who provides such an excellent service to her customers, nor Janet gave up. Janet pressed the county council for a meeting. She and Shanhaz travelled to County Hall in Chelmsford to put their case. The county council thought again and agreed to continue discussions. Local people expressed their support for the re-opening and described the problems they had experienced without a local post office. More meetings were held. The county council required Shanhaz to make changes such as a new shop front and changes to the internal layout of the store. At last, thanks to Shanhaz, Janet and the county council all working together, a deal was done and a contract signed.

As Janet said in a letter to local residents who supported her petition:

I am delighted that by working together we have achieved this fantastic outcome. It is now up to all of us to support Shanhaz and Allnutts Stores and to use the Post Office regularly when it re-opens in Autumn.

Railing repairs – at last!

Lib Dem campaigner Lorraine Collier highlights the county council’s failiure to repair Epping High Street’s broken railingsThis picture was taken in March 2007 – and the railings in Epping High Street were well overdue for repair then! Since then I’ve often contacted the county council about their failure to repair or replace them. At different times the reasons for delay have included the need to place a special order, the difficulty of sourcing matching stock, the need to obtain funding from Chelmsford (where the county council is based) and staff shortages.

So I was pleased today to receive an email confirming that repair works are due to start in two week’s time.  I won’t quite believe it until I see workers are on site (delays caused by more snow anyone?) but let’s hope by the end of the month residents no longer have to put up with the red plastic ‘temporary’ barriers spoiling what is mostly a very attractive street.

On the doorstep

Epping Forest’s Liberal Democrat councillors met this morning to discuss the agenda for the council meeting on Tuesday week and other forthcoming issues. As various members reported back on the work they were doing and the issues they were pursuing I was struck by how much work goes on behind the scenes that must be totally invisible to most residents.

Sometimes this is because the work concerns individuals and it isn’t appropriate to make the details public. Sometimes it is long term work that may or may not come to fruition. At other times it is simply too obscure or complex to be of wide interest. But often we simply don’t think to tell people, although we try to make sure the most important bits of news are covered by our Focus newsletters and at Part of the reason for starting this mini-blog is to try and report back more frequently about the things which I and my Lib Dem colleagues are doing.

This afternoon Janet Whitehouse and I knocked on doors in Epping and Coopersale to thank people for supporting us in the elections in May and discuss local issues. A few people were surprised to find us on their doorsteps outside of election time but we think it is important to keep in touch all year round. As usual we both picked up several issues we need to pursue, including some speeding traffic issues to raise with Essex County Council. As a bonus four people volunteered to help deliver our Focus newsletters.

If you can help deliver Focus in your road (ideally every two to three months) please drop me a line at