Your local Lib Dems have uped the pressure in their battle to protect post office services in Newton Hall as shocking new evidence comes to light
In working to save the post office from being downgraded we have uncovered shocking information and held further high level discussions. Last week we held a two and a half hour meeting with Post Office bosses. Further clarification was sought about the proposals to shut the existing post office on Alnwick Road in Newton Hall. Current plans were to run a downgraded branch model with reduced staffing and service cuts out of another premises nearby.
We have been in further discussions this week including a conference call with Post Office management. We discovered that the branch was going to be downgraded regardless of whether it remained in its current location or moved into a neighbouring McColls newsagents.
It also turns out the post office has been for sale for FOUR years, yet no-one locally was told about this. No for sale boards or signs were placed at the post office and most staff knew nothing of the proposed sale. The only place the advert could be seen was on the website of a Manchester based company. Unless someone was specifically looking for a post office to buy they would never have known.
Councillor Amanda Hopgood says “It turns out the existing post office has been for sale for four years, but this was never made known locally. This has left us and members of the local community furious. The whole purpose of our campaign has been to make sure that the branch remains a “Main” post office. The consultation contained nothing about this and intentions have been to downgrade services regardless of where the branch remains.”
Fellow councillor Mark Wilkes who has been leading the discussions has now amended the online version of their petition to focus solely on protecting the “Main” status of the branch saying “The chances of the existing site being retained are diminishing. The owner looks set to accept a retirement offer. The lease has run out. We are now fighting to make sure that Newton Hall retains its “Main” status.”
Craig Martin who is the prospective Lib Dem MP for Durham City added “Keeping ‘main’ status may give staff the opportunity to keep working in a proper post office if they want to. It will save badly needed services and keep the capacity we need. It could be that McColls will be the knights in shining armour. Or there may be an alternative location or solution. What matters is that we continue the fight to protect the service.”
The original plan for the Post Office was for a “local” branch model to be put into McColls. However this would have left a kiosk like service without necessary capacity. Many services would be lost including sending large parcels, paying in cheques, transcash, an ATM for post office payments and up to a dozen other services.
Following their extensive talks with the Post Office, your Lib Dem councillors can confirm that the Post Office is now in high level discussion with McColls about the national newsagent chain upgrading their model.
If an upgrade is successful it is thought it will be the only successful change to proposals so far in the country. Management had previously said to the councillors that they were not aware of any location in the country where a decision had been amended in this way. There is no responsibility for local councillors to take on such campaigns and the campaign is said to have made major ripples at headquarters.
Councillor Mamie Simmons says “We have asked to meet with senior management from McColls, and the Post Office is looking at facilitating this. If we can protect the “Main” status of the branch and services we are certain that residents will be happy. It is possible we may hear news before any further meetings, but it is absolutely imperative that residents sign the online petition. The online petition can be signed at www.ipetitions.com/petition/newtonhallpostoffice. Councillors are asking residents from across the County to help by signing the petition to send a message which “can’t be ignored” to those in charge.
The consultation continues to run and residents are asked to put forward their views on the consultation as well, including the need to protect the Main status of the branch:
The consultation, runs until the 9th September. Residents can email [email protected] with reference 23131399, or write to: “FREEPOST Your Comments” with the same reference.