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Post Offices at risk in Westcountry – warning

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 09, 2013

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Rural post offices could be next in the firing line after plans to shut one in five High Street branches were announced, it is feared.

The Post Office has revealed plans to seek partnerships with retail firms for 70 of its 373 Crown Post Offices because it is losing £40m a year.

Unions admit they are "bemused" as to why none of the 16 branches in major towns and cities across the region featured on the hit list.

But they say the flagship Post Office "transformation project" is failing to persuade sub-postmasters in the region to volunteer to adopt new working practices.

The Communication Workers Union claims it is "only a matter of time" before smaller branches are forced to become one of the new main or local offices.

And this could see "fortress" counters scrapped and customers deprived of their privacy as they are forced to queue up at shops and petrol stations and conduct their business in public.

Chris Roche, South West spokesman for CWU, said: "They are trying to get postmasters to sign up for a new contract which will hit them in the pocket – pressure is being brought but they are not signing up.

"The network as a whole faces an uncertain future and these new local offices will be very basic, open for longer hours but not doing the same job.

"It is hard to see the scheme remaining voluntary indefinitely and it is only a matter of time before they force the issue."

Staff were said to be "in shock" after the Post Office announced their plans for Crown branches, a move it denies is a closure programme. The company say the move will help the offices, based mainly in high streets or busy shopping centres, remain in their current locations, pledging no compulsory redundancies.

There was uproar in the region just over five years ago when a massive wave of post office closures was announced by the Labour government.

Plans to axe 2,500 branches across the country and up to 100 in Devon and Cornwall prompted Westcountry MPs to demand a "people's revolt" to block the plans.

Since then many towns have lost branches and villages have been left with no service at all or in some cases limited services provided in local shops. A number of the larger Crown offices, which are owned by the Post Office, have closed with services transferred to WH Smith and Co-op stores.

The Post Office said it was seeking to link up with national partners or local, independent firms, adding that if it could not find a suitable deal, the Crown office will remain. It said in a statement: "We are currently undertaking the biggest business transformation programme in the history of the Post Office.

"Our investment will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs.

"Crown branches are a fundamental part of our long term growth strategy and need to be brought into profit."

The CWU partly blames the Government for failing to deliver extra services to help keep branches afloat.

General secretary Billy Hayes said the announcement was a "huge blow" to the Post Office network, saying: "Staff will be in shock at the scale of what will effectively be the closures of Crown post offices across the country.

"This move will have a huge impact on the high streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown post office.

"These offices provide a dedicated specialist service to communities, which will not be replicated by a window or two in a bigger shop.

"We've seen problems with access to Post Office services in previous franchise arrangements and this could create further barriers to accessing a range of Post Office services.

"It leaves huge questions about how it can realistically deliver services for passport applications, identity services and a range of financial services, while being dramatically pruned back."

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13 comments

  • Despairing2  |  February 11 2013, 3:49PM

    kindredspirit - feedback on my 'drivel' from an obviously well practised expert on the subject. Thank you :-)

    |   2
  • kindredspirit  |  February 11 2013, 3:22PM

    YAWN @ Comment below. You have use of the internet clearly, so you can Tax your car online, Secondly there is plenty of out of town FREE parking if you can be bothered to use your legs. Thirdly who cares about a shop having a refit or not, no need to drone on about drivel. :P

  • Despairing2  |  February 11 2013, 12:58PM

    Recently visited one of our local Sub Post-Office to renew the Tax Disc for my car (and before anyone starts 'correcting' me about Car Tax, a Tax Disc is what DVLA call it). The PO counter was always positioned at the back of the shop (a 'One-Stop' convenience store), so after it not being in its usual place, and hunting round for it, I found that since the shop refit, it had moved next to the tills. Seeing the new arrangement, I initially had concerns about customers privacy - but how much did we have before anyway - someone either at the next counter or queueing behind could easily overhear what was being said/see what was going on. When I asked if they still did issue Tax Discs (and dreading an answer that would mean a trip to the centre of town, parking fees etc.) I was told that yes, they did still issue them - and did so up until 11:00 at night! The one big benefit I see from this new arrangement is that we now have 'convenience' opening hours to conduct our Post Office business, really useful for those limited in terms of being able access PO facilities during the working week. If this is progress, then 'bring it on'!!!!!

  • Bleach  |  February 11 2013, 10:39AM

    @Nippie: and whoever taught you,if anybody at all, didn't teach you how to use an apostrophe. Or that missing words in sentences make you look like an ass. "So don't they teach you spell or when to use capital letters at Uni's (sic) in Wales?"

  • nickthompson  |  February 10 2013, 2:12AM

    If,when privatised Royal Mail turns out as cheap and efficient as the Railway network or the Gas,Water,and Electricity companies,lets go for it.

    |   -2
  • MrMikeHunt  |  February 09 2013, 2:11PM

    Typical scare tactics used by nickthompson. The German's might take over. Yes and they might call it der waffen ss post and they might, might is a really scary word isn't it. However they might not, phew what a lucky escape. We have a very inefficient Postal service, it needs to change. We have a postal service that offers very little customer service, yet this same service that effectively treats is customers as numbers, wants you to feel sorry for it and fight for 'no change'. They offer a poor service but what if it gets worse is their only defence. Let me tell you from experience, the postal services in Germany, France and Spain are all better run services.

    |   2
  • Nippie  |  February 09 2013, 1:10PM

    So don't they teach you spell or when to use capital letters at Uni's in Wales?

    |   -7
  • JackWilliamss  |  February 09 2013, 12:03PM

    I dont understand why all the post offices in the southwest seem to have slow lines, and rubbish staff. In wales (where I attend university) most post offices have self service machines, and no counter staff (just one member of staff to help people who don't understand the machines). There is never a que, it's easier, quicker and a more pleasant experience.

    |   2
  • nicold  |  February 09 2013, 12:02PM

    I would like to see South West Water take over the Post Office! ;)

    |   -9
  • nickthompson  |  February 09 2013, 11:53AM

    No I havent,at present I have mine delivered.

    |   1

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