Friday, 14 December 2007

Lenton farewells

Jeannie Clough, left, with colleagues from Lenton's Gurdwara, at this year's Community Festival in Lenton Recreation Ground.

New Lenton Post Office, Lenton Boulevard.

There have been two farewells in Lenton. One offers hope and the other clearly demonstrates that any words the government may speak about its commitment to neighbourhoods and local communities are meaningless in the absence of comparable actions.

On Monday just gone Jeannie Clough, the Project Officer at the Lenton Gurdwara Temple Centre on Church Street, handed over a £1million funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and with that act her job came to an end. For the past year she has worked with the Centre to put together a development package which would see the old church school building housing the Gurdwara fully restored. The building dates from 1841 and is listed. If the bid is successful it will see the Centre becoming home not only to Lenton's Sikh Temple, but an exhibition space and Lenton Local History Society plus its archives, together with a high-tech meeting room. Altogether, it is a very exciting project. When the Gurdwara's elders first began talking about improvements to the building the estimated cost was £400,000. By the time Jeannie was employed with the help of a grant from the Lottery and first spoke to Susan and me, the cost had gone up to £800,000. By September 2007 it was £1million and by this week the total had reached £1.81million, of which the HLF is being asked to fund just under £1million.

Having seen the bid and knowing all the work that Jeannie has put in and shared some of the her tears and joys I hope the HLF bid is successful. It deserves to be. I have Jeannie to thank for getting to know the Gurdwara and some of its members a little better. If it all goes ahead, then come 2010 I will be seeing Jeannie at the grand opening of Lenton's new Temple Centre. In the meantime it is farewell to someone I have come to like and admire for her commitment and enthusiasm.

This week the Post Office announced the closure of New Lenton Post Office after a period of meaningless 'consultation'. It will almost certainly close within the next few weeks and three people will be looking for new jobs. Our nearest post offices will all be bus rides away in the absence of owning a car. By any measure, our post office was an invaluable community facility. I, along with lots of other individuals, wrote a personal letter arguing against its closure and another on behalf of the Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party. Our local city councillors and the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum helped with a petition, but all to no avail. The decision to close our post office had been made and that was that.

In truth, the Post Office are not to blame. They have been squeezed financially by this so-called Labour Government for the last ten years as their profit making services like pensions and TV licenses have been creamed off and given to the banks and private sector. Ministers like to pretend that all this is nothing do with them and want the Post Office to take the blame. Not that the PO help themselves with their current advertising campaign about being 'The Peoples' Post Office'. The whole process stinks of right-wing 'market' politics. The evidence is there for all to see in the PO's decision to delay its consultation on closing London POs until after the mayoral elections in 2008. The Government knows that PO closures close to elections will lose Labour votes so they stop the process taking place.

As a Labour Party member I am ashamed of what the Labour Government is doing to post offices across the country. The political party which promises to protect local POs will have a vote winning policy. A governemt which can afford to spend billions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on saving Northern Rock, can afford to keep local POs open. It is as simple as that.

Confusion over the chocolate-covered teacake - a dome of marshmallow on a biscuit swathed in milk chocolate - could cost the British government £3.5m after an EU court adviser said the retailer Marks & Spencer should get a refund of the tax it paid during the decades that tax authorities insisted they were biscuits.

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