One of the last remaining crown post offices in the West End and the only one serving Fitzrovia is to close this year and be taken over by a private operator.
“Great Portland Street Crown Post Office workers were given the bad news at a staff meeting this morning,” said the Communication Workers Union.
Seventeen workers at the busy post office on the corner of Mortimer Street were told that the branch would close in May this year and that a deal with private operators is currently being negotiated to run it as a franchise.
“The closure will result in the collective loss of almost 400 years’ service by colleagues, to the local community. Such franchises often mean a reduction in access, services and staffing levels plus a lessening in the quality of service, received by customers,” said union representative Garrie Bond who attended the staff meeting this morning.
The branch is in a busy commercial street serving thousands of residents and tens of thousands of people working within 500 metres of the premises says the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.
This morning’s announcement means that nine Crown Post Offices are being closed so far in 2020 with the loss of 75 public sector jobs.
“Since the New Year opened, there has been an acceleration of the franchising programme by the Post Office — a programme which makes a total nonsense of government claims that the post office network is ‘safe’ in their hands,” said Andy Furey the national union officer for Post Office workers.
In a statement to Fitzrovia News, Post Office Limited said: “From May 2020 the branch will be operated by an independent franchise partner, from the current premises, offering the same great range of products and services with extended opening on Saturday afternoons. Our new franchise partners, Mr Zahirkhan Subekhan Pathan and Mr Anish Mustufa Vohra, plan a major refurbishment of the premises, providing a brand new, modern Post Office branch and a retail offer of stationery, packaging, drinks and confectionery.
Post Office’s Head of the Directly Managed Branch Network Steve Blampied said:
“We are making this change in order to maintain Post Office services in Great Portland Street. There are unprecedented changes on our high streets and the needs of our customers are evolving too.
“Our priority is to provide secure and commercially sustainable services in Great Portland Street, continuing to meet our customers’ needs now and into the future. The vast majority of our 11500 Post Office Branches, large and small, are already successfully operated by independent franchisees.”
Although the commercial decision to change the way the branch is operated has been taken, the Post Office welcomes feedback and comments on any issues customers would like considered as plans are finalised.
Post Office welcomes comments until 4 March. Customers can share their views on the proposed change through online questionnaire at postofficeviews.co.uk.
In October 2019 a House of Commons report criticised the Post Office for its strategy of closing Crown Post Offices and recommended that the Post Office Ltd and the Government reconsider.
The Post Office has also been criticised for the way it handled its relationship with sub-postmasters and had to pay out £58m after the High Court ruled the company to be at fault for installing the defective Horizon computer system in branches.