December 4 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Wisbech UKIP councillors have launched a campaign to save the town’s main Post Office, and have been out on the streets this week to collect signatures on a petition.
Earlier this year the Post Office announced that the Grade II listed building in Bridge Street would close if a nearby shop or supermarket could accommodate the service.
It was one of 70 Crown Post Offices earmarked for new accommodation, after the Post Office announced is was losing £37m a year.
Councillor Paul Clapp, who represents Wisbech North on Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “I am delighed that we collected in excess of 1,000 signatures in three days.
“We plan to get at least 3,000 people to sign, and then send the petition to the county council. We want the Post Office to stay where it is, and continue to provide a good service for the people of Wisbech.
Two weeks ago, the Post Office announced that its premises in Norfolk Street, Wisbech, are to be modernised. They will shut on October 19, and the new-look premises are due to re-open on October 30.
On Friday, Cllr Clapp, along with UKIP Councillors Alan Lay and Gordon Gillick attended a public meeting about the proposed changes, along with representatives of the Communication Workers Union and the Post Office.
Among the 12 members of the public attending was John Smithee. He said: “A representative of the Post Office revealed that for every £1 of income at the Bridge Street premises, it costs Post Office Ltd £1.80, so the Post Office is losing money.
“He did not reveal who the potential franchisees might be, but three spring to mind, WH Smith, the Co-op supermarket, and Beales department store.”
Cllr Clapp said the Post Office representative at the meeting refused to name possible franchisees, “but when someone suggested it was WH Smith he did not deny it.”
Cllr Clapp added: “When a franchisee takes over the Post Office, they can take the staff with them, and the Post Office will pay salaries for three months. But after that a franchisee can renegotiate contracts. The staff at Wisbech Post Office are really helpful, and they don’t want their building, their jobs or their contracts messed about with.”
Mark Plumb from the Unite union attended the meeting in his capacity as a Wisbech resident. “I have grave reservations about the Wisbech Post Office being lost,” he said. “A franchisee will not offer the same level of service and could threaten the jobs of staff.”
Dave Smith, area organiser for the Communication Workers Union said: “It is the uncertainty that is affecting our members. They will have had two years of anxiety, not knowing what the future holds.”
A Post Office spokesman said: “We must change the way Wisbech Crown Post Office branch operates to ensure its long term viability and maintain services. “We launched our application process for retailers to express their interest in operating the branch earlier this year. The process has now closed but no decisions have been made. Once a suitable retailer is identified there will be a six week public consultation to gain the views of customers and interested parties.
“Subject to consultation, we expect to be in a position to convert Wisbech Post Office branch to a retail partner within the current financial year. If no suitable partner can be found a Crown branch will remain.
“There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of franchising. We will be working closely with our people to ensure their needs are met whether that is a transfer to a new employer or redeployment in the Post Office.”
* Cllr Clapp will be collecting more signatures in Wisbech Market Place on Saturday between 9am and 12.30pm.