Lewes Post Office is facing the threat of closure as Post Office Ltd continues making changes to its services.
Post Office Ltd today (Tuesday, January 19) announced plans to make changes to 42 of its 314 directly-run Crown post office branches, providing franchised services for 39 branches, and closing three.
Lewes Post Office is one of the 39 branches the Post Office is hoping to rehome after it finds a suitable retail partner to work with.
Roger Gale, Post Office’s general manager of the Crown network, said: “In some locations, directly-run Crown Post Office branches work well but in others there are alternatives, such as franchising, which can work better for the business and its customers, not just in terms of access to Post Office services but also in relation to long-term viability.
“We need to continue to make changes to strengthen the Crown network and we have today announced that we are seeking suitable potential retail partners to work with us on providing franchised services for 39 branches, and we are proposing to close three branches in areas where it is no longer viable to keep a Crown branch.
“Losses in the network of Crown post office branches have been successfully reduced from £46million a year in 2011/12 and, overall, this part of the network is now breaking even.
“But with high property costs and restricted growth opportunities in some locations, some Crown branches will not be able to make money.
“We must address this and, like any High Street retailer, we have to continue to adapt to customer demands, which our network must reflect. We cannot look to the taxpayer to subsidise Crown branches that lose money.
“Throughout the changes, we will be consulting with and supporting the 400 employees affected and there will be consultations held with local customers when detailed plans are drawn up.”
Across its overall network, the company has transformed around 5,000 Post Office branches over the past three years, bringing customers unprecedented access to services, both online and through 150,000 extra opening hours a week, with around 3,000 branches now open seven days a week.
Crown branches represent less than three per cent of the Post Office network of 11,500 branches.
However, the Communication Workers Union is fighting the Post Office’s plans under the banner “Protect the People’s Post Office”.
CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “This is devastating news for our members. It is death by a thousand cuts. The proposals disregard the wealth of expertise, experience and sense of pride in public duty which is shared by Crown post office employees.
“Post Office Ltd should never have been separated from Royal Mail. It should be developing services with Royal Mail and Crown post offices should be a one-stop shop for mail, banking, financial and retail services. This trusted public service is being destroyed by lack of imagination and a dash for cash when what it needs is innovation.
“The closure of Crown post offices will have negative economic and social effects on high streets – even if moved just 500 yards into the back of a newsagent – with the businesses left behind suffering and the area going into decline.”
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