Our press release:
Lib Dem councillors are celebrating with residents after post office services were saved. Councillors in Newton Hall near Durham City had campaigned to stop the loss of services for their branch. In addition capacity and access concerns have been partly addressed and will be monitored.
A move into a nearby McColl’s shop will still go ahead but with many improvements. Services which would have been lost will be retained including the ability to pay in cheques. Transcash as well as Royal Mail and Parcelforce International Services are also now protected. The original plans would have seen a cut to many parcel services.
Councillor Amanda Hopgood comments “We made sure that the difficult access to Durham City was pointed out, and this has been listened to.Residents will not have to go into the City for services. Furthermore, internal access at the new branch was a big concern. We must wait to see if concerns about this have been fully addressed in the months which follow the opening of the new branch.”
External access to the branch will be improved as a planning application has now been granted by the council for a disability ramp. This will be an improvement on the existing premises. Within McColl’s, further adjustments are to be made. Fixtures and fittings will be re-aligned and removed to make sure there is proper access. This will include improved access for wheelchairs and space for queuing.
Concerns about staffing numbers are also being addressed. Staffing is to be aligned to customer demand. However there will be continual monitoring of staffing numbers with a review in three months which will be analysed by the Citizen’s Advice who are the statutory consultees on the proposals.
Records of queuing times and numbers will also be carried out and analysed following the concerns raised.
Councillor Mark Wilkes who put up the online petition to challenge the cuts to services said of the proposals. “In an ideal world we would still have a Main’s branch. However what we are now being offered is far and away better than the original proposals. Protection of services. Improved access, improved capacity and a full review over three months. The Post Office has agreed to full monitoring. We will also be personally monitoring this. Any reduction in service quality will be robustly challenged in the local community.”
Councillors now hope that after the new facility has bedded in the improved offer will mean that local residents warm to the changes. Longer opening hours should cut the risk of queuing. Cllr Wilkes added “There will still be some residents who are concerned, and we would urge them to contact us at any point during this process.”
Councillor Mamie Simmons says “Following our two and a half hour meeting with senior Post Office management we were deeply concerned. What we have achieved by way of improvements is leaps and bounds ahead of what we could have ended up with. The disability access will be particularly well received and are happy the council has supported that application. Of course the first few months of the changes will be key. We will be in touch with the Post Office, Citizen’s Advice and McColl’s if there is any drop in service quality.”
He has also contacted the Citizen’s Advice and McColl’s to request updates going forward and to ask that existing staff are approached as a matter of urgency to see if they would like to work in the new branch.
The move is likely to take place in February 2015.
You can view the consultation result letter here: newton_hall_dh15lx_decision_letter
Link to story on Northern Echo website: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/northdurham/durham/11584479.Post_Office_move_goes_ahead___with_concessions/