Peterborough city centre Post Office may shut as franchising given go-ahead

The Post Office in Cowgate could close in favour of a branch in WH Smith in Bridge Street
The Post Office in Cowgate could close in favour of a branch in WH Smith in Bridge Street
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Up to 61 more Post Office branches will move into WHSmith stores over the next year, it has been announced

And Peterborough’s Cowgate branch may be one set to go.

A Post Office spokesman said: “We have been talking to our people at a number of locations including Peterborough City Post Office branch, about the potential changes regarding their branch.

“We are seeking a suitable potential retail partner because we believe that franchising, which has been used successfully in other areas for many years, will secure services in the area for the future.”

Around 300 Crown offices remain after 107 were transferred to the retailer over the past decade.

Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells said: “We know that people place huge importance on the presence of a Post Office branch on their high street.

“Our collaboration with WHSmith will help to secure this, as well as bring new investment into the network.”

The Post Office announced a new 10-year agreement with WHSmith to relocate more branches into the retailer’s stores, which it said would keep services on high streets.

Just over half of the branches changing over are expected to be concession agreements run directly by the Post Office.

The plans will include some of the 39 directly run Crown branches that the Post Office announced proposals to franchise in January, but locations are yet to be confirmed.

Roger Gale, general manager of the Post Office’s Crown branch network, said WHSmith franchises had improved customer service and brought benefits, with most open Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

“The vast majority of the Post Office’s network of 11,500 Post Office branches is already run on a franchise or agency basis,” he said.

“Crown branches are still run by directly by the Post Office but factors such as high property costs and changing customer habits mean we have to consider new ways to provide our services in some locations.

“Today’s agreement means we can maintain and improve services from convenient high street locations in a commercially sustainable way. It’s great to be working with a partner that we know shares our values and is as committed to thriving Post Office branches.”

Mr Gale added that staff affected by the new agreement will be informed first about plans for their own branches when these are finalised.

The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) have hit out at the proposals.

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.”

He added: “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. The only thing driving this move is cuts to make profit.”

CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger, (postal), said: “Tragically, this is yet another horrendous example of broken promises, irresponsible government and chronic mismanagement by the Post Office. The Post Office should never have been split from Royal Mail – natural synergies and public services have been sacrificed for greed and profit.”