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FIRST CLASS CHEEK! Royal Mail closes local depot with loss of 500 jobs...then invites council leaders to CELEBRATE new HQ in Northampton.

Byline: By Michael Corley and Jenny Waddington

THE Royal Mail has been blasted for asking Coventry council chiefs to celebrate the start of work on a new depot near Northampton which threatens hundreds of jobs in the city.

Stunned deputy council leader Kevin Foster and fellow Tory councillor Gary Ridley branded postal managers insensitive after they invited the authority to the ceremony.

The new pounds 70 million mail centre is being built to replace Coventry's Bishop Street sorting office which will close, putting 500 jobs at risk.

There was a massive public campaign - backed by 16,000 people and the city council - to try to save Coventry and Warwickshire's main postal depot from the axe. But last year Royal Mail decided to press ahead with the development.

Council chiefs said Royal Mail had a cheek in inviting them to Monday's event - and said no-one from the council would be going Cllr Ridley, cabinet member for city development, said: "I was astounded to hear that Royal Mail had invited us to this event, given the detrimental impact which the closure will have on this city and its surrounding areas. I also think it was very insensitive. We are extremely disappointed that Royal Mail has taken the decision to close Bishop Street.

"We worked very closely with trade unions to find a solution and we even offered Royal Mail other sites in Coventry after they told us that Bishop Street was no longer suitable.

"Needless to say we shall not be attending the event and our focus now will be on helping those Coventry workers affected by this."

The letter invites the council to "celebrate the start of building work" by joining Royal Mail to see the first spade break the ground at a site near junction 15a of the M1, near Northampton.

Union leaders who organised strikes to try to protect local jobs, also weighed in.

Mick Kavanagh, of the Communication Workers Union, said: "I think Royal Mail bosses inviting the council to the ceremony is an absolute disgrace.

"We are doing everything we can to resolve this situation. We cancelled our industrial action before Christmas so that we could continue talks with Royal Mail and try to resolve the dispute, and they turn around and invite the council to the groundbreaking ceremony. I am outraged by their insensitivity."

Unions say up to 500 people could lose their jobs because of the closure of Bishop Street. Royal Mail says people will be offered the chance to relocate.

Royal Mail is planning to create two smaller delivery offices in Coventry, in Foleshill Road and London Road, to maintain a presence in the city. The new centre should open in 2010.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We have held several meetings with representatives of the council and have given a commitment to keep them informed of developments with the project.

The invitation was sent with the best intentions and provides another opportunity to discuss the project with Royal Mail.

Two years ago a campaign was launched to keep the sorting office in the city and a petition collected more than 16,000 signatures.


GOING... Coventry's Bishop Street sorting office. When its work is moved, more than 500 jobs could be lost.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 16, 2009
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