Post Office management assurances about relocating Neath Crown Post Office to the back of a shop in the town have been questioned by the local MP. In a letter to Post Office Managers Peter Hain has questioned whether the current services and the quality of service provided would be maintained if the office was relocated to a corner of a retail shop. He further questioned the long term future of the Post Office should the retailer decided to pull out of the town.
In his letter Mr Hain said, ‘You have given me reassurances that if a retail partner is appointed in Neath, it will offer access to the same range of products and services currently offered by the Crown Post Office. This will include passports, financial services, identity verification, foreign currency and the ability to purchase car tax as well as other products and services currently on offer at the branch. However I remain opposed to the closure and franchise for the following reasons.
First, I understand that this is greatly dependent on whether the retail partner has the capacity and floor space to accommodate these facilities especially in relation to identity checks which require a large booth on the public side of the counter for privacy.
What assurances can you give that it would be a condition of the agreement that the retailer provide all of the services, especially so if they do not have the capacity to accommodate them?
I still hold grave reservations over the long term future and quality of the services. What criteria are used to determine the long-term viability of the franchise? In increasingly uncertain economic times what may seem like a sound business case at the time, twelve months down the line could be a bad business case and the retailer will look to protect its own business before the Post Office services.
In which case what assurances can you give that a situation similar to that in Runcorn where the Post Office joined with retailer WH Smith only for the business to later decide to pull out of the town leaving the future of the Post Office in considerable doubt?
Furthermore what control does Post Office Limited have over the Post Office once it joins with a retail partner to ensure the same high standards and quality service are maintain not just in the short term but also in the long term?
As I understand the situation the quality of the service will greatly depend on how many of the existing staff decide to transfer over, bringing with them vital expertise and experience. This is then combined with the quality of training any new staff receives. What measures are put in place to ensure the skills and experience are not lost in the initial transfer and also in the long term with the inevitable turnover of staff that a business experiences.
Staff expertise goes hand-in-hand with the services. If the staff are not trained to provide the services then inevitably the services will be lost. Additionally if the expertise of the staff in providing the high standards we have come to expect is lost then the service becomes dumbed down.
The consequences for the Neath and its people would be devastating if the Post Office and the current high quality services are lost. Experience tells us that once something is lost it is extremely difficult to retrieve or replace.
My reservations are widely felt within the community, by the workforce and the Trade Union who are rightly proud of Neath Crown Post Office and do not want to see it join with a retail partner.