Sounding the Last Post
POST Offices – those community institutions where people can pay bills, buy stationary and birthday cards and post letters while standing around nattering with new friends. Or so it used to be. The news that a plan is afoot to move the central Letchworth
POST Offices - those community institutions where people can pay bills, buy stationary and birthday cards and post letters while standing around nattering with new friends.
Or so it used to be.
The news that a plan is afoot to move the central Letchworth Garden City Post Office to a franchise in a convenience store down the road, away from main bus stops, has shown that times they are a-changin'.
But why are they? Competition from supermarkets and the internet - where you can pay your bills, buy anything you like, email your friends for free and talk in a variety of chat rooms - surely contributed to the losses recorded by the Post Office during the last financial year.
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According to the Royal Mail's reports and accounts statement released in May this year the Post Office, one of four main arms of the Royal Mail Group, recorded losses of £111m during the financial year. This is over £2m a week.
In the same statement the Royal Mail's chief executive Adam Crozier called for "the need to modernise".
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Changes are definitely needed, but if the Post Office is to sit in the corner of a convenience store will there be the same amount of counters open or goods to buy?
Stuart Kenny, director general of Letchworth GC Heritage Foundation, recently said: "I cannot recall visiting it [the Broadway Post Office] myself without having to join a lengthy queue."
This is a valid point. The post office is very busy and is used by customers who still rely on it for services.
If the move goes ahead to relocate then will all these people want to pop down to an inconvenient location with worse transport links?
Will there be queues flowing from the counter, outside the door and along the front of the shop during freezing winter months while people are waiting to pay their electric bills?
The Post Office does need to modernise to cut its losses, but moving to smaller premises will only lead to dwindling numbers using its services. This could eventually lead to its closure.
The two supposed advantages to the proposed move - the post office being saved from closure and the longer opening hours for customers - are not reason enough to justify the move.
A spokesman for the company said the move would "secure the long term future of the Post Office". This is the same company whose own report and accounts statement said that the £111m loss was a "£12m improvement on the previous year".
Well, if there are improvements, why the cuts?
Secondly, who are the longer hours going to benefit? One thing is for sure, it isn't going to help pensioners who are afraid to go out late at night because they fear the streets are no longer safe.