The 2003 fight to save Kirkcaldy’s Post Office branches from closure

There was a time when Post Offices could be found in every area of the district.

Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 2:48 pm

In Kirkcaldy alone they were dotted around the Lang Toun - from Linktown to Gallatown.

But that changed in the early 2000s as the Post Office began a series of closures, citing changing customer habits - a position re-iterated by banks a decade later as it too started to shrink.

The Fife Free Press of 2003 featured a campaign backed by politicians who wanted the sub Post Offices saved for the community.

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Looking back, what is interesting is the response of many PO managers who said the writing had been on the wall for some time - and some would have happily sold up if only they could find someone to take the branch of their hands.

In their eyes, too many businesses were competing for too little business.

But the town wasn’t willing to give up without a fight.

Four branches were earmarked for closure in the 2003 round of cuts which raised fears for nine more across the region.

At risk were the High Street west end branch, Balsusney Road branch on Octavia Street, one in Gallatown branch at the top of Rosslyn Street, and Birnam Road.

The Post Office called it urban re-invention - a phrase which meant nothing, and actually meant your branch was closing.

Political reaction was unanimous.

Marilyn Livingstone MSP, and Lewis Moonie MP sought talks with the Post Office, while the council’s Central Area Services Committee spoke as one as it stepped into the campaign.

The key concern was ensuring people - mainly the elderly - still had access to a Post Office.

Mrs Livingstone said she was “dismayed” at the way the Post Office handled the closure announcements.

The business defended its stance saying the move would “transform its network” and said a consultation with sub-postmasters revealed that nine of them would put their branch forward for closure in 2004.

But the politicians argued the branches were the lifeblood of their communities.

Councillor Anne Watters said she was “scandalised” as the committee agreed to write to the Scottish Executive - now the Scottish Government – to intervene.

Councillor George Leslie said: they should have heeded the warning when Smeaton Post Office closed, adding: “We need to tell the powers that be that people won’t want to lose these places. They are part of the community that is being destroyed

“The Post Office was not interested when I talked to them before and I don’t know what we will achieve now by just talking.”

He was proved right.

The Press also spoke to the people running the local branches.

At Gallatown, Linda Mitchell, sub postmistress said she had been trying to sell the business for several years with no success.

“During that time, the Post Office business has dwindled while overheads have increased until , over the last three years we have barely been viable.”

And Liz Blankenstein, who ran Balsusney Road Post Office, noted: “For our MP and MSP to go now express their outrage at these closure is nonsense - they knew all along this would be the outcome. We warned them it would happen, but they would not listen to us.

“Now it is the local community which will suffer which is very sad.”

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