We all know by now that the decision to close our post offices was taken by the Labour Government, which decided that 2,500 should be replaced by 500 mobile units - and this after the same Government removed getting on for half of post office business in 2004. We know that Post Office Ltd have been left almost powerless to do much but change their plans at the edges because the Government own 100 % of the shares. The one chance to embarrass the Government over this was in a vote in the House of Commons last week. I was very surprised indeed that the two Liberal Democrat Powys MPs decided to absent themselves from this vote. In my opinion, this was an abrogation of their duty to their constituencies. I would most certainly not have missed the vote if I'd have been an MP.
I comment thus because a good old-fashioned rumpus has blown up over the action (or inaction) of our MPs in Powys. Several people have raised the issue with me, and Councillor Bobby Mills went public last week outside the threatened Garthowen Post Office in Newtown. I posted on this at the time. I have to say that I agree with every word that Bobby Mills said. 19 Labour MPs voted for our motion, as did most Liberal Democrats. Many more Labour MPs defied their party whip by abstaining. The vote was lost by just 20 votes, a close run thing for the Government.
Now its worth looking at what these two MPs have been saying in defence of their actions. Firstly, Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire. He told the B and R Express
"I talked to my whip about it and thought it was more important to take part in the consultative meeting. You can never get these things right, as you either spend too much time in Westminster, or too much time in the constituency. I was pleased to have attended the consultative meeting as it did give us a number of positive avenues we can use to mount a defence of post offices".
Now, its a weak MP, who hides behind the whip - and the meeting was for Town and Community Councils. The Post Office have offered me, a mere candidate, a full briefing on this issue at a time of my convenience - so I have not the slightest doubt that they would have done the same for the MPs. There was absolutely no need to be there, except that they wanted to be seen.
Lemit Opik has launched a full scale assault on Councillor Bob Mills. In today's County Times he is quoted as saying, amongst other things
" As Councillor Mills knows I was at a very important meeting about post office closures in Llandrindod Wells, where the decision makers about the cuts were available to discuss the issue. Cllr Mills has a bit of a brass neck to highlight this point considering he didn't bother to attend the meeting in Llandrindod Wells himself - perhaps his own sense of guilt for missing the meeting is the reason for him making the accusations now. "
And plenty more of the same. Now we need to remember that there were several attendees at Llandrindod who could have reported back to the MPs about what was said, a special meeting for them could have been arranged, and it was only MPs who could have voted in London. It looks to me that the MP is digging an ever deeper hole for himself over this - and Bob Mills is not a man to take on in a digging competition. The MP was wrong, made a gross misjudgement and should accept it, and not just attack a County Councillor who has stood up for his constituents by stating nothing but the absolute truth.