At a time when Brexit is shaking and quaking what it means to be British, surely there are some things we can rely on? Christmas springs to mind. The glamour of sparkling illuminations, markets scented with mulled wine and a thousand treats in Parliament Street, queues forming for the traditional panto at the Theatre Royal.

With Christmas comes the inevitable trip to the post office to send cards and parcels, lifelines to loved ones and people rarely seen but not forgotten.

So it comes as a shock to learn our iconic Lendal Crown post office, a public service many Yorkies consider an integral part of their city centre, is next in line for closure as a result of rip-off privatisation.

Perhaps it was inevitable the moment the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition decided to flog off Royal Mail back in 2013 and 2015. The Business Secretary at the time, York born Vince Cable, became notorious for undervaluing this public service generations of taxpayers had funded. As a result – whether by accident or design – £millions flowed into the private bank accounts of City funds and hedge funds.

As usual, the people who had created our post office network and Royal Mail - in short, the general public, me and you, - were neatly and ruthlessly asset-stripped.

Roll forward to 2018 and that process has reached our own city with a vengeance. Lendal post office has been serving local citizens and businesses for over 130 years in its current, elegant form. However, if the government allows Post Office bosses to get their way, it will close, with its current services moved over to WHSmith on Coney Street. Their plan is to set up a franchise somewhere in that rambling department store, raising fears for the future of the trained Post Office staff who serve us so well.

If it is any comfort, York is not alone in having its Crown post office transferred to WHSmith, a firm voted by consumers in Which? the worst retailer on the high street for eight years running. In fact 74 Crown post offices are set to be franchised to WHSmith, a project that would close 60 per cent of the Crown network that existed in 2013, following years of stealthy privatisations.

Alarm bells are ringing because research highlighted by the Communications Workers Union (CWU) shows that franchising our Crown post offices to WHSmith results in ‘longer queuing time, sub-standard service, reduced services, inferior advice given on products, and poor disabled access. In addition to this, local economies and lives are hit by quality jobs being replaced with low pay insecure work, and high streets are often decimated by the closing of Crown offices in prime sites that once provided custom in the area.’

To add salt to the wound, no public consultation is being allowed on whether these changes should even happen, only on the final form of the resulting franchised service. In addition, although surveys show that the public almost universally want to retain Crown post offices, the privatisation is bankrolled using taxpayers’ money. For example, in 2014/15, £13 million was paid in compensation agreements alone to shed experienced Post Office staff. The CWU claims around 800 staff will be affected by the next round of franchising and that it will cost at least £30 million in compensation payments.

All of the above has a horribly familiar ring. Actually, there are lots of ironies raised by the sale of Lendal Post Office. Firstly, that a government which claims to be conservative – with both a large and small ‘C’ – seems hell-bent on tearing apart all our beloved public institutions for the sake of short-term private profit. As we prepare for Christmas 2018, it seems the Tories are determined that long-suffering taxpayers should remain ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ when it comes to billionaires like Richard Branson leeching juicy returns from the NHS or greedy multinationals like Carillion. Or now, it would seem, the corporate shareholders of WHSmith.

Treasured public places like Lendal post office are key parts of our city’s rich heritage that still serve a vital role in the community. They should not be sold off in quickie fire sales to make rich people even richer.