Post of­fice clo­sure is ‘back­ward step’

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA CURRY

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.”

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Mid­dle­ton Post Of­fice on Manch­ester Road is set to close in 2019

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