Fears over future of town centre post office branch

Hastings Post Office. 12/3/13
Hastings Post Office. 12/3/13

HASTINGS could lose its town centre post office in Cambridge Road.

The outlet is among 70 Crown branches, which are owned directly by the Post Office, that may shut and ‘partner’ with nearby stores such as WH Smith and The Co-operative, it was announced this week.

This would mean staff from the Post Office would be based at postal desks within the store.

The move is being carried out to try and stem some of the losses being made at Crown branches, amounting to around £40 million a year.

But an anonymous source said the proposals were ‘absolutely appalling’, saying many elderly people relied on the Cambridge Road branch, which employs around 20 people.

Joy Nunes Martin, secretary of Hastings and St Leonards Seniors’ Forum, said: “I think that would be an absolute disaster. Places like WH Smith are crowded with shoppers and imagine someone like me and others who use mobility scooters in there. It would be a hell of a job to get around.

“This move would also put a lot of people out of work which is an important consideration. The post office is an asset to the town.”

The forum’s publicity officer, Ann Fergy, said: “Members will be very concerned about this proposal. To relocate to a possibly cramped corner of a town centre shop would create chaos and cause more problems for older people with walking difficulties.”

Members of the forum plan to discuss the proposal at a future meeting.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) fears the Post Office’s plans to move Crown branches into shops will lead to around 700 staff losing their jobs.

Sandra McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the Post Office, said: “We are currently undertaking the biggest business transformation programme in the history of the Post Office. Our overall 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. To maintain our high street presence we are looking to find retail partners for 70 of our branches enabling us to stay in these locations. The Cambridge Road Crown Post Office has been identified as a branch that could potentially be partnered with a retailer.

“It will be subject to a six-week public consultation to gather views from the local community. We are committed to having a Post Office branch within the area. The Post Office successfully works with many retail partners. We have more than 3,000 branches where customers are accessing services in this way. If no retail partner is found we are still committed to having a Crown Post Office within the area.

“This is not a closure programme and there are no compulsory redundancies planned.”