Post Office consultation ‘a sham’

Friday 22nd March 2019 7:27 am
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Farnham post office is one of as many as 40 branches nationwide which could close and relocate to a WH Smith store ()

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SEVERAL jobs are currently being advertised on the WH Smith website for post office staff, despite a final decision following the recent public consultation yet to be announced.

A proposed relocation of the West Street Post Office branch to the WH Smith store in the Borough was announced last October, with a a six-week public consultation ending on March 6.

And while Mark Gibson, external affairs manager of the Post Office, previously estimated a final decision would be made “some time in June”, a number of roles are already being advertised online and included in a Job Centre column, as seen on Page 12.

These include a post office operations manager, counter clerks and a store manager who will “take responsibility for the Post Office when it opens in May”.

David Beaman, Waverley borough and Farnham town councillor for Farnham Castle ward, also highlighted “the current list of planning applications includes an application (WA/2019/0332) for provision of non-illuminated fascia signs and a hanging sign at WH Smith for the Post Office” – something Mr Beaman says “seems rather premature given that no final decision has been made”.

The application is dated February 18. “So the order must have been made before this date,” he added.

“The Post Office needs to wake up and be more honest with the people of Farnham rather than pretend that a final decision had not yet been made when clearly it had.”

George Hesse, Farnham Residents town councillor for Castle Ward, previously petitioned in oppositon to the plans.

He believes the public consultation, held at Farnham Library on February 26, was a “box-ticking exercise”, adding “we can see the Post Office planned to relocate regardless of public feelings”.

Mr Hesse also highlighted the planning application for a Post Office fascia and sign at the WH Smith store, and said: “Add to that the advertised positions for Post Office staff for the new outlet, and it doesn’t take Einstein to see the whole process was pre-determined and a complete sham.”

He went on to thank post office staff, adding “we’ll be sad to see your branch close”.

In response to WH Smith advertising for staff, a Post Office spokesperson said: “This is normal practice, and it is not the case that this pre-empts any final decisions about moving a branch.

“Once a branch goes into consultation, both Post Office and the potential new operator begin all the detailed planning for the move. This includes getting planning permission (which can take several months) and starting the recruitment process.

“Planning permission sought for any branch would only be actioned by the potential new operator if the proposal went ahead, and any recruitment is conditional upon the proposal being approved.

“The reason this detail planning is done at an early stage, ahead of a final decision, is that we know, should the decision to move the branch be made, it is much better for our staff and the community that the transfer proceeds without any unnecessary delays.”

Waverley Borough Council leader and Farnham town councillor Julia Potts said that while she “may not have agreed with the decision to relocate the Post Office”, she “understands the financial reasons for the move”.

“What’s most important now is that WH Smith is able to cope with the anticipated increase in demand and ensure the services are accessible to everyone,” she added.

The Post Office spokesperson confirmed feedback “is currently being carefully considered and will absolutely shape our final decision when it comes to the plans to move the branch”.

“It is true that we are not consulting on principle of franchising a branch, as this is a commercial decision – and we believe it is the right one in order to sustain Post Office services in communities for the long term; however, that does not mean that any final decisions have been made.”

The Post Office “will let the community know once we have reached a final decision”.

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