Worrying Post Office Limited Figures Behind Neston Branch Closure
|Published: 7th September 2021 10:17|
Campaigners calling for Neston town's Post Office to reopen have unearthed some alarming statistics.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by a user of the former Neston Post Office (PO) has highlighted worrying Post Office Limited figures.
The FOI detail forwarded to Parkgate resident John Edwards show a total of 1,183 UK branches had been shut for a month or more since March 2020, but 260 had not reopened by June 30 this year.
And of the 923 branches that have reopened, about a third of them (328) have cut their hours while only 65 have upped the time they are open to the public
Meanwhile, 1,000 people have now signed a Change.org petition launched by Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders calling for Post Office Ltd to find a new franchisee holder to enable the doors of Neston PO to open to the public once more. Other residents have signed the petition at Neston Market.
Mr Madders said it was not: "always that easy to get a retail partner for a post office to stay open, so with the kind of profits the Post Office make, they should be using that money to support these locations to ensure there is a continued presence there".
His petition reads: "It is a disgrace that a town of Neston's size will be without a Post Office so this petition calls on the Post Office to put in sufficient support to enable it to remain open until new operators can be found."
Both Mr Madders and the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Little Neston councillor Louise Gittins, have called for a meeting with Richard Hall, Post Office Ltd external affairs manager, to press the case for Neston PO to reopen.
Post offices were permitted to remain open throughout coronavirus lockdowns in all four UK nations, but wider restrictions forced surrounding businesses to close and bans on most foreign travel impacted the viability of many branches.
Brian and Joanne Young ran the PO branch in Neston until they announced in June they could no longer afford to keep it open. They still run the PO at Little Neston but some elderly folk are finding it difficult to get to Little Neston with bus services only operating on an hourly basis, according to Neston councillor Keith Millar.
Mr Young said the branch had "lost a lot of footfall during the pandemic" due to businesses which needed banking services closing, and: "lost transactions like travel money and travel insurance, which give us a form of income on commission", had also had an impact.
"All our overheads stayed the same and unfortunately we suffered a big loss on the shop and we couldn't afford to sustain it anymore," he added.
Branches were not able to access some of the Government's coronavirus support packages, but the Post Office was given a £50 million subsidy "to protect access to essential services in commercially-challenging locations".
The closure has left Neston, which has seen three banks shut in recent years, and its residents with nowhere in the town that can handle banking transactions.
Liz McBayn, who manages the Claire House Children's Hospice charity shop two doors down from the post office, said her staff used to: "do all our banking and our daily cash transactions" at the branch, but would now have to travel a mile to the post office in Little Neston.
She said that would mean having to close the shop, which could see her "losing revenue".
A Post Office spokesman said 90 per cent of its branches stayed open in 2020 and there were "a range of reasons" why some branches might not have reopened, such as "older postmasters deciding that, after shielding and lockdowns, they no longer wish to run a post office".
"We know how important Post Office services are to a local community which is why where a branch does close, we seek to find a temporary or permanent solution as quickly as possible," he added.