Manx Independent letters, December 4, 2014

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People power is key to success

At a lively meeting at Ramsey Grammar School on November 25, many questions were asked but unfortunately some of the answers and the way this matter has been dealt with, leaves one thinking do we still live in a democratic society?

It has to be said the presentation can only be described as pathetic.

I was asked how many tenders were sent out – the answer was nine.

The other eight were M&S, RBS and other banking institutions, as far as I understand no other retail outlets were approached, surprise, surprise.

Does this sound like the Old Boys’ network is in operation and, after all, who can be blamed for thinking this, after the sale of the Old Post Office building fiasco?

If the old building hadn’t been sold, then the post office would have had an income from renting it out.

Then I am sure if the public had been informed that for economic reasons they were moving back, they wouldn’t have felt that the heart of their town was being ripped out.

Of course, there would have still been an outcry because so much ratepayers’ money had been wasted.

I do feel that if Mr Bell had been the chief minister at that time, the sale (if necessary) would have been handled differently. But he and the other members of the House of Keys at that time are guilty for having allowed this to have happened.

Apparently the staff have never been asked for their ideas on how the business could be improved.

Ramsey no longer have a building society office in the town. Perhaps the building societies in Douglas could be persuaded to rent an office in the Old Court House for one or two days a week. There must be many pensioners in the north of the island who, like myself, would welcome the chance to conduct their business with a building society in Ramsey.

Another suggestion: would it be viable for the Isle of Man Post Office to offer savings accounts, similar to the UK? With perhaps one especially designed to encourage the younger generation to save.

Whatever the result of the campaign to save our main post offices in Douglas and Ramsey, it has shown the importance of people power.

The other night we saw the MHKs present at the meeting squirm. We were again promised more transparency, this promise has been made time and time again, but rarely happens.

Let the electorate become the watchdog to make sure this time it happens.

When ordinary people like myself become angry at the way government operates, we will keep coming out of the woodwork to annoy you as we have done many times in the past.

Mrs B M Heath, Maughold.

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Closures need reconsideration

The risky decision to close the iconic main post offices of Douglas and Ramsey needs urgent reconsideration.

Douglas’s Regent Street post office, like that of Ramsey, is valued by all segments of the community. Strategically positioned, it’s a magnet for tourists and conference visitors.

Both Crown Offices, staffed by highly efficient workers, have special heritage ambiance.

Look to the face of its post office to gauge the confidence of a nation. What better way to signal to potential world investors that we’re prepared to shut up shop? No more ‘can do’ attitude by our government.

Ironically, as the news went out, the symbolic Christmas tree lights in Regent Street came to life.

Perhaps the good folk of both Douglas and Ramsey should request that such lights be extinguished in respect for the officers who have been denied natural justice.

With regard to the cost savings closure figure provided, consider the apparent explanation by the powers that be, as published on page 4 of the Manx Independent (November 20): ‘. . . the staff are public sector workers. The employees of sub post offices are employed directly by the sub postmaster with different arrangements for pay, benefits and pensions, which is where the savings come from.’

Even due process, which sadly often fails to reflect fair play, appears to have been ignored.

Unlike the existing main post offices, the Spar shops selected as alternatives seem unfit for purpose; especially for the double use proposed.

If Spar fails to make profits, the long-term indirect result may be a greater loss of taxpayer funds.

Renting out Douglas PO’s gift shop area for Spar while leaving the postal officers’ positions unaffected would be preferable.

Future demand is not a fixed constant. Demand can be created. By diversifying, the POs may still be able to provide new services, eg. some paid invoice processing for the private sector.

Douglas’s refurbished pedestrian zone with seating fronting our iconic post office represents the closest we have to a town square.

If this community building were to be converted to offices or mundane shops, then the appeal of the town’s heart would be reduced to that of a Dead Letter Office adjoining the Loch Promenade wasteland which greets our tourist arrivals.

Ironically, this area was also once a cultural asset prior to being discarded for short-term gain.

Name and address supplied

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Post Office staff are asset to town

I have a great deal of respect and affection for Ramsey Post Office and its staff. I use it a lot.

It represents friendliness, trustworthiness and reliability.

These are intangible things, in a way, but things so valuable to our community. It is not something which can be replaced.

We cannot afford to lose it actually.

The same goes for Regent Street office in Douglas.

Name and address supplied

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Vandals must be taught empathy

I was appalled to hear about the act of vandalism in Castletown at the weekend.

If it was my car that had been vandalised along with the many others, I would have suggested to the other victims that we get together and put a sum of money up for a reward for information leading to the arrest of these hooligans.

The law is an ass. If caught, what punishment would they get? A slap on the wrist or a fine. Huh.

It would be better if their phones and electronic gadgets, TVs, computers/games, etc, were confiscated and they had to attend either at St John Ambulance or the Red Cross and learn how to save lives.

These kids are probably so bored with life that all they can think of is vandalism.

Show them that they can play a very important part in the community.

M. Blenkinsop-French, Douglas.

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Customer service is island problem

I read with interest Zeba Clarke’s letter about the Palace Cinema (Manx Independent, last week) and I certainly agree with the ‘don’t care less’ staffing mentality comments as I have had a similiar experience in the past.

However, in their defence they are by no means the only place on the island that customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

I witnessed a lackadaisical approach last week in the Railway cafe next to Tesco with my daughters, when we asked for fresh bread to go with the soup rather than cutting from the communal loaf left out, which we felt would have had numerous customers’ hands on.

The staff behind the counter begrudgingly gave us fresh bread from the kitchen with a scowl. We chose soup because it was practically the only thing on the poor menu not exposed and uncovered, i.e. self service, and I am amazed it has passed environmental health checks.

Staff attitudes are very important for the ambience of an establishment and customers can tell if they enjoy being there or not.

Of course, wages, and terms and conditions make a difference to motivation, as does adequate supervision from the management paying the salary, but we the customer have to feel we are getting our money’s worth with what we purchase, how we are served and the surroundings – and we didn’t.

We thought about discussing it there and then or with the manager but realised our words would fall on deaf ears because if they agreed with our thoughts it wouldn’t be like that in the first place.

We won’t be back unless it changes ownership and becomes a nicer, brighter, more hygenic, welcoming place (upstairs is very dark and they have chosen most inappropriately to have an office at the top of the stairs!). It was barely occupied at peak lunch time which says a lot.

As was mentioned in one of the local papers recently, a possible revamp of it may be imminent which I look forward to as it has so much potential.

Customer service skills are too underrated these days and perhaps if we had a website on the island to rate the good and the bad, i.e. name and shame, we might see long overdue improvements in services throughout the island.

Name and address supplied

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Agreeing with cinema criticism

What a brilliant letter from Zeba Clarke (‘Cinema could be community hub’, Manx Independent, November 27)!

In her criticism of the operation of the Palace Cinema she has voiced succinctly and informatively most of the complaints that I and many of my friends have been making, and hearing, for years.

It has become almost unbearable to read reviews of films praised to the skies by the UK national press, knowing full well that we will never get to see them here in Douglas.

The Broadway Cinema is a little better than the Palace, where most offerings cater only for the ‘Shrek II’ level of film-going, but we are mostly reliant on going to the Peel’s Centenary Centre (Brendan Gleeson superb in ‘Calvary’ last week) or the Erin Arts Centre (rather less adventurous) to see anything worthwhile.

I would add to Zeba Clarke’s suggestions for people running independent cinemas a look at www.therexberkhamsted.com

The Rex is a single-screen cinema in a town with a population of a little over 16,000 (Douglas has around 29,000).

It shows different films every night, 362 days in the year (the most popular ones just keep coming back, but there are numerous unusual ones from all over the world slotted in between them), and many nights are completely sold out.

It is also, as Zeba has suggested the Palace could be, a lively social centre – and it serves no buckets of popcorn and no giant vats of Coca Cola, so you can enjoy the film without people noisily slurping and munching around you all night.

Above all, cinemas should surely be run by people who are keen on films, and there is no sign of that at the Palace.

By the time this letter is published I would hope to see at least one of the Douglas cinemas advertising ‘Mr Turner’ and ‘The Imitation Game’.

That surely can’t be too much to ask?

Valerie Cottle, 39 Farmhill Park, Douglas IM2 2ED.

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