A Southport Councillor is urging residents to watch out this Spring and Summer for a likely consultation process from the Post Office over the possible move of the Southport Crown Post Office to an as-yet-unknown major retailer home.

Town Centre Lib Dem Councillor Tony Dawson has already spoken with the Post Office about their plans for the possible relocation of Southport’s Crown Post Office.  Councillor Dawson says that he was surprised to hear of these plans and has already made sure the Post Office top managers are aware of the level of concern and possible scepticism there will be in Southport about any proposed move.  He says that the key issues for local people will be:

(a) whether any move suggested maintains the accessibility of the present Crown Post Office, which is at a very central location, albeit with poor parking and mixed public transport links.

(b) opening times and range of services provided.

(c) security of provision of the service long-term.

“We shall want to go over any proposal with a fine tooth-comb ” Councillor Dawson says, “but, for now, we shall have to wait to see whether the Post Office can even find a suitable partner locally who is prepared to provide a suitable venue on acceptable terms.”

The Post Office presently have 373 Crown Post Offices within an overall network of 11,800 branches in the UK. Currently, these branches are collectively losing approximately £40m per annum and, to ensure a sustainable service into the future, the Post Office have promised the Government that they will develop this part of the network so that it can be brought back into profit or, at the very least, break even in future.

The Post Office claim that their ‘Network Transformation Programme’, is the biggest business transformation in the history of the Post Office. They say that this programme will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs including operating open plan branches and extending opening hours. Crown branches are declared as  a fundamental part of the Post Office’s long term growth strategy and these Crown Office transformation proposals are, they say, what is needed to bring this part of the network into profit.

The Crown Transformation Plan is declared by the Post Office to be geared at improving the financial position whilst maintaining service and improving the customer experience. In particular, they state they have……  “a clear commitment to keeping Post Offices in the particular High Streets, cities and communities the Crown Post Office’s serve”. The Post Office management say that they want to improve their service offer in these places which should ensure sustainability into the future. In around 300 of the Crown branches, this will involve investment on site – building on successful pilot work within a number of Crown Post office already.

In 70 or so locations, including Southport, the Post Office are looking to work with potential retail partners in the vicinity to run the Crown Post Office for that location in the future. If there is an appropriate partner who can take on the Post Office and meet the necessary requirements, the Post Office central managers will then consult with their customers and other stakeholders. They say that a high quality Post Office will continue to serve all community/locations already served and these new Crown Post Offices will be equipped to play a full part as the Post Office further develops its services,  for example in Government Services and Financial Services.

The Post Office have issued assurances that they will work closely with the staff at any affected branch, liaising on the plans ahead. There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of these developments.  This week, the Post Office have commenced engagement with suitable local businesses to assess potential opportunities.

No suggestion has yet come from the Post office managers as to what might become of the present Post Office facility which is in a very attractive building in a prime potential retail site.

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