Post office closure is ‘backward step’
PLANS to close Middleton Post Office have been branded ‘a backwards step’ for the town.
Fears have been raised that shutting The Crown Post Office and franchising it could result in ‘ a reduction in services, accessibility, and jobs’.
Middleton MP Liz McInnes said she is ‘extremely disappointed’ that the Manchester New Road branch, one of 74 to be closed and franchised across the UK, is in line to be shut in 2019 and move into a WHSmith branch.
The Post Office say WHSmith is a potential franchise partner, but there has also been other interest.
Ms McInnes said: “While this is better than losing the branch altogether and retains a level of provision in the area, this most likely means a reduction in services, accessibility, and jobs.
“Closing flagship branches, getting rid of experienced staff and putting counters in the back of a WHSmith is not the plan for growth or innovation that the Post Office network so desperately needs, and it is not the level of service that the public should expect.
“At best these relentless closures point to a lack of vision, and at worst it suggests a managed decline of a public asset.”
Ms McInnes added with WHSmith closing high street stores in other areas, meant the decision to franchise Middleton Post Office made ‘little sense’.
She said: “It is a huge risk to relocate vital Post Office services into a business which is closing stores.”
Coun Malcolm Boriss, Labour councillor for East Middleton, added his concerns, saying: “It’s definitely a backwards step for Middleton.
“It’s the central office in the town and it’s well used. A lot of people won’t be happy.
“The Post Office have lost their way somewhere. They are banking on WHSmith saving them, while WHSmith are closing stores too.”
The Post Office said a six-week public consultation would be held before a final decision is made.
Their spokesman said that franchising the branch would help to ensure it is sustainable in the future.
“We have thousands of large Post Offices in towns and cities operated in this way, as well as our smaller branches in local shops,” she said.
“In Middleton, a franchise arrangement would mean extended opening hours, including Sundays, and Post Office services safeguarded long term.”
A WH Smith spokesperson said: “Over the year, WHSmith will be opening more stores than it is closing, and across the business we will continue to create jobs, employing more people next year than this year.
“We have earmarked only six high street stores for closure, but will not be disclosing which six stores as they will close at different times as and when their leases expire - the earliest of these will be in 2021.”
Middleton Post Office on Manchester Road is set to close in 2019