Controversial changes for Hitchin postal services

HITCHIN’S postal delivery office will be going up for sale this month as part of controversial plans by Royal Mail which may also include scrapping a pick-up service from the town and making collection times from post boxes earlier.

A decision was made in November of last year to move the Hitchin delivery office to Stevenage, sparking protests from unions and workers.

A Royal Mail spokesman told The Comet that the site would be going up for sale “within the next few weeks”, dashing any slim hopes of the scheme being pulled. It has already been announced that the move is scheduled for spring next year.

The spokesman added: “Faced with declining mail volumes and increasingly tough trading conditions, these changes to our operations are vital to put Royal Mail on a sound, secure and sustainable footing.

“Royal Mail has a clear strategy to ensure we derive maximum value from any property we no longer require for our operations and, where appropriate, working with planning authorities to ensure that properties we are selling are attractive to new owners.

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“We have a strong track record in using the proceeds from disposal of surplus property to invest in our mail operation.”

Steve Butts, area representative for the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said that he “felt sorry” for Hitchin postal workers.

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He added: “It will be a very sad time when the day comes next February when Hitchin posties leave their workplace for the last time and move to Stevenage.

“There has been a Royal Mail sorting office in town since circa 1860. While my members will continue to serve the Hitchin community, the historic link of a sorting office town would have been lost forever.

“Not only will the sorting office go, so will the image of a postal worker on a bike as the plan will be to replace the bikes with vans. Going forward, let’s hope Royal Mail are able to provide a good service to the Hitchin public as we don’t want to see this dash to modernise the postal service being realised at a detriment to the quality service provided.”

The news comes as a source told The Comet that Royal Mail has no plans to put in place an alternative collection point for people who miss a postal delivery. Until now, it was unknown what Royal Mail were going to do with regards to replacing the service.

It means that people will have to travel several miles to Stevenage to retrieve items that for whatever reason cannot be delivered without them being in.

The source also disclosed that there are plans to bring forward collection times from post boxes in the town to an hour earlier, in a move that could affect businesses and local organisations as well as individuals.

A spokesman from Royal Mail would neither confirm nor deny the allegations, but added: “The interest of our customers will be considered as a top priority during these operational changes and these considerations will include how customers can collect undelivered mail if they do not wish to arrange for a redelivery and collection times from postboxes.”

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