Post Office closure symptom of a wider High Street problem

14th September 2018

Rutherglen Reformer article

Concerns over the future of Rutherglen Post Office have been mounting amid a wall of silence from the Post Office organisation. The Reformerhas an in depth article on the issue this week.

But the Post Office issue follows bank closures in Cambuslang and Burnside, reductions in police offices and a long list of high street closures and cost pressures on major national stores like Frasers, Marks & Spencer and now John Lewis. Problems in suburban centres are now being followed by decline in big city centres too.

It is easy to blame the Post Office, the banks and the retailers – and indeed they have too often shown a woeful lack of interest in their customers and local communities. But Rutherglen and Cambuslang Main Streets and others like them across Britain have been in decline for many years as a result of changes in shopping practice – not least the growth of out of town shopping malls and now of online services.

Most of us now very rarely need to go to the post office, bank or police station; we patronise the convenience of Kingsgate, the Forge or Silverburn rather than the local butcher, baker, grocer or toy shop we remember from our youth. Life is much more rushed for young families.

There are advantages in the “new” shopping – everything under one roof, cheaper prices, more choice, greater convenience. But there are major downsides too – the seeming inability of Amazon and Starbucks to pay a proper level of tax, despite hyper profits; a drabness and lack of choice in local high streets, unnecessary dependence on monopoly retailers, reduction in local and regional specialities and empty, unproductive shop units in both Rutherglen and Cambuslang centres.

The solutions are not easy. There are more coffee shops, takeaways and restaurants – but also more bookies, charity shops and pound shops.

The previous Rutherglen Town Centre Forum was not successful but perhaps it is time to establish a powerful Town Centre Action Group able to look at the whole picture – nurturing local entrepreneurs and social enterprises, one shop council/post office/advice centres, local transport, tourism, events and financial support.  Above all, can we bring in people with ideas and expertise – perhaps from a Housing Association, Clyde Gateway or innovative planning background to provide dynamism? There must be many local people with skills to offer.

Rutherglen’s historic Main Street remains a superb asset. What is its potential in the 21stcentury?

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