Just before Christmas I spent an early morning with Royal Mail staff at Muswell Hill sorting office, thanking them for their hard work making sure the many thousands of Christmas parcels that passed through their doors arrived safely in our homes. The run up to the festive season is the busiest time of year for staff both there and in our high street Post Offices and it’s then more than ever when we appreciate how valuable these services are.
Whilst the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition sold off Royal Mail in 2013, our precious Crown Post Offices are still in public ownership. So the recent announcement that Muswell Hill and Crouch End Crown Post Offices are on the list of 39 branches that the Post Office wants to sell-off has understandably raised lots of fears locally.
The official term is ‘franchising’ but I’ve had lots of people contact me concerned that it’s a sneaky attempt to close these busy branches down or reduce the service on offer. More than one elderly resident has told me how much they rely on the ‘lifeline’ of the Muswell Hill branch to collect their pension and that they’d struggle to travel any further because of mobility issues. Many have written to say how great the staff are and expressed amazement that these popular branches with huge queues could be at risk.
I share these concerns and have called an urgent meeting with Post Office bosses. When we meet, I will be seeking to find out why these branches have been identified for potential franchising, how these proposals will impact on the quality and range of service provided and what the impact will be for the staff. I also want to know what happens if a franchisee can’t be found or if they pull out in the future.
Worryingly, research from Consumer Focus (the statutory watchdog for Post Offices) revealed that franchise branches scored worse for customer service, queue times and accessibility than Crown Post Offices. Whilst in theory experienced staff can move to whoever takes over the service, in the last round of franchising in 2014-15 fewer than 10 staff out of 500 transferred to the new retailer. The sad reality is that ‘franchising’ is about cost saving and one of the ways of doing this is replacing experienced, knowledgeable staff with minimum wage staff on reduced terms and conditions.
I fear these plans are a short-sighted attempt to save money with little consideration for the long-term effect on our Post Office services. If you share my concerns, please support my campaign to protect our Post Offices at