Lewes post office campaigners 'disappointed' by closure decision

A protest march against the Crown Office closure was held earlier this year
A protest march against the Crown Office closure was held earlier this year
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A campaign group which opposed the closure of Lewes Crown Post Office say this week's decision to close the branch is 'disappointing'.

The closure was announced by Post Office Ltd on Tuesday (September 6) following an extended public consultation. Post Office counter services will now move to the town's WHSmith store.

Following the announcement, a spokesman for the Stop the Closure of Lewes Crown Post Office campaign group said: "Many people put in a lot of hard work in the campaign to keep our Crown Post Office open and the number of signatures obtained on our petition shows the strength of feeling in town.

"It is disappointing that the County Town will no longer have the services that a Crown Post Office offers or even the security that the reduced service will continue any longer than the contract with WHSmith exists. They closed the existing sub Post Office for financial reasons a number of years ago so we are unsure why they are now courting the same business.

"As an organisation we entered into the 'consultation', raising concerns about the cutting of services, treatment of staff and many other issues. We know a number of people voiced apprehension regarding access to an already busy store, especially for customers with wheelchairs or prams, but have yet to be given a reply that guarantees that these concerns have been addressed. Suggestions of relocating to Sussex Stationers - a store owned by the same company - also received little to no consideration.

"The fact that planning for new Post Office signage at the new location were submitted to the South Downs National Park before the consultation ended suggests that the Post Office were merely going through the motions and a decision had already been made.

"The Stop the Closure group will continue to campaign against this move as we see it being detrimental to the citizens of Lewes."

Following the announcement, regional organiser for the Communications Workers Union Mole Meade said: "It's a sad day for the community in Lewes, losing Crown Post Office status to a reduced service at WH Smith. Community and public services should be supported, not lost"

A Post Office spokesman said: "Our ‘stand alone’, directly managed branches (Crown branches) were making a loss of £46 million four years ago and are now breaking even through the actions we have taken to reduce costs and grow income - for example through financial services.

"We can’t look to taxpayers to subsidise Crown branches in towns and cities and we risk this part of the network slipping back into loss unless we take action - we also need to be able to make sufficient money to continue to invest. Most of our network is already run on an agency or franchise basis and has been for decades.

"In Lewes there will be a new branch that can be commercially sustainable into the future. We’re not reducing or ‘closing down’ services there and we will be able to provide customers with seven days a week service from a new, modern branch in its own designated part of WHSmith."

The Post Office also said had "carefully considered" feedback from the consultation after receiving 200 individual representations from customers and local representatives and a further 91 comment cards objecting to the proposal.

The company says it will ensure customer access both into and within the WHSmith store will meet "stringent standards", including widened aisles where needed as well as low-level counters, PIN pads, hearing loops and customer seating.

Roger Gale, general manager for the Post Office’s Crown branch network, said: “WHSmith already operates around 100 Post Office branches throughout the UK and we have been successfully working with them for nearly ten years. They have a proven record of running Post Offices with consistently high levels of customer service.

“We are committed to remaining on high streets and at the heart of communities. We are making changes right across our network to enable us to do so.

“That means adapting to the needs of our customers, who want flexibility and choice about how and when they do business with us, whether that is face to face or on the web.”

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