It has been stated the UK Government’s billion pound Post Office modernisation programme may have sealed the fate of local branches.
According to East Falkirk MP Michael Connarty, the initiative to update the way post offices operate has the potential to lead to the closure of local offices, including the Grangemouth outlet in York Lane and the eventual death of the country’s entire sub postmaster network.
Post Office Ltd, meanwhile, states the investment will secure the future of local post offices.
One of the major changes in the Network Transformation programme is postmasters no longer have a guaranteed income of around £10,000 a year.
Mr Connarty said: “The ‘modernisation’ has been analysed by the Sub-Postmasters and Postmistresses Association and it has concluded the new ‘non-salaried’ terms offered to its members, who must pay the costs of renting or buying their shop from commission only, is destroying the post office and sub-post office network by stealth.”
However, Mr Connarty’s specific fears regarding Grangemouth’s branch were eased after he talked to the local postmaster.
He said: “I have been assured by Alan Brown, as the continuing operator of the refurbished York Square post office, that he has a business plan, that he will ensure the post office will be sustainable for the long term.
“In addition to all the normal benefits and postal services presently offered, Alan has special arrangements with Post Office Ltd that make York Place, Grangemouth, the only office in the Falkirk area that can issue replacement car-tax discs in addition to renewal of discs.
“York Place is also equipped with an A.E.I. terminal that allows them to renew the new 10-year photo ID driving licence online with licence delivery with one week. The A.E.I. terminal will also allow duplicate Security Industry licences to be obtained online.
“I have every confidence Alan’s approach will maintain a viable office at the present Grangemouth location.”
According to the Post Office there is no threat to local branches, including Grangemouth, which will soon be opening for longer, from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. on Saturdays, and undergoing refurbishment work to create four new serving positions to enable it to deliver Post Office products and services alongside retail transactions.
A Post Office spokesperson said: “There is no threat to Post Office branches in Grangemouth or anywhere else in the UK. We are currently engaged in the largest investment programme in our history, and in November the government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network.
“This investment will see up to 8000 branches modernised and additional investment in over 3000 community and outreach branches. Over 1400 Post Office branches have already been modernised since April 2012 and customer satisfaction with the new-style branches with longer opening hours is high.
“We recognise the challenges some subpostmasters face across our branch network, so are taking steps to support them too. The network modernisation programme comes with a clear commitment from us and from Government. Customers have been clear, they want Post Office services in their communities and on high streets and we want this too, while also meeting their changing needs, and in turn helping subpostmasters thrive.
“Grangemouth Post Office will be completely refurbished next month, and will have four serving positions, a mix of two traditional screened counters and two open plan serving positions.
“These plans have been drawn up with the subpostmaster’s agreement. Opening hours will be extended to include Saturday afternoons and the same services will remain available.
“We believe our customers will welcome these additional hours as well as the new modernised environment and I am sure they can look forward to a continuation of the excellent service they have come to enjoy at Grangemouth Post Office.”
Grangemouth Post Office will be closed from February 1 to 11 for the refurbishment.