Lewes’ MP has criticised a ‘personal attack’ by Lib Dems campaigning to stop the closure of the town’s main post office.
Almost 3,000 people have signed a petition opposing plans to stop Post Office Ltd franchising the branch in the High Street, and hundreds of residents attended a protest last weekend with some dressed in post-box red and others waving giant letters and postcards.
This week the town’s Lib Dems accused Lewes MP Maria Caulfield of ‘shocking hypocrisy’ for refusing to sign up to a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) about protecting Post Offices, suggesting ‘she doesn’t really care about Lewes’.
But Ms Caulfield said: “This statement shows the true colours of the local Lib Dems and how nothing will stop them from making a personal attack, twisting genuine community issues to their own personal gain.
“I have continually offered my assistance to the groups working to prevent the closure of the Lewes post office and will continue to do so.
“With regards to the EDM, as the move to downgrade the post office is not Government led or Government policy it is not really relevant here.
“I have signed the local petition and have discussed the matter with Post Office officials which in my experience has proved to be a vastly more productive way forward.
“In spite of this cynical statement I am happy to work with any party or group that puts the community interest first, whether that be the saving of a post office or reopening of a level crossing.”
Campaigners fear that the Post Office would sell the Victorian building and put the branch into a local shop instead.
Like many MPs she says she does not sign EDMs as ‘they have no legislative effect yet cost the taxpayer a considerable sum to administer’, but Lewes Lib Dems have pointed out that since November she has signed six EDMs on topics including St Patrick’s Day and Guantanamo Bay.
Shirley Sains, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the upcoming town council by-election in Lewes, said: “It is shocking hypocrisy to claim to your constituents that you don’t sign up to EDMs, and then sign up to six of them.”
She added: “The post office in Lewes is a vital community resource and it is outrageous that the Post Office Ltd would even consult on franchising, or possibly closing, it.
“There is absolutely no good reason that Maria Caulfield can’t sign up to this. It just exposes the fact that she doesn’t really care about Lewes or understand the concerns of local residents.”
Rosalyn St Pierre, Lib Dem East Sussex county councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge, added: “Perhaps if Maria Caulfield’s own local post office in Woodingdean was under threat she would be more concerned.
“We all know that she is more worried with toeing the Conservative Party line in Parliament on cuts than standing up for local people, but this motion doesn’t even criticise the Government.
“All it is asking for is that the minister does what he can to protect jobs and services. It’s not a lot to ask, but we are having to get used to expecting a lot less than we used to from our MP.”
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