Workers at the Great Portland Street post office broke into a round of applause at a meeting this month after receiving news that plans to privatise their branch and run it as a franchise had been dropped.
The seventeen workers at the busy “crown” post office on the corner of Mortimer Street had been told in February the branch would close in May this year, and a deal with private operators was being negotiated.
Such franchises often mean a reduction in services, staffing and a lessening in the quality of service received by customers, says the Communication Workers Union. The branch is one of the last crown offices in the West End and the only one serving Fitzrovia.
But staff were told at a meeting on 3 November that they were to remain as a directly run crown office as the potential buyers have now withdrawn their interest.
“Upon receiving the news colleagues broke into a spontaneous round of clapping and cheers,” said Garrie Bond, a Communication Workers Union representative.
A notice in the window of the branch informs customers: “We will not be making any changes to Great Portland Street Post Office at this time. This branch will therefore operate as currently.”
A Post Office spokesperson told Fitzrovia News: “Earlier this year we consulted on plans to change the way we operate Great Portland Street Post Office by franchising the branch. After further consideration we will not be proceeding with any changes to the branch at this time. The branch will continue to operate as it currently does.”
However, when asked if Post Office Ltd would abandon plans to franchise the branch in future they declined to comment.
Communication Workers Union assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “We are extremely pleased Great Portland Street Crown has been reprieved.
“The Post Office should never have been looking to offload it in the first place as it provides a professional and valued service to local businesses and the community.
“We wish to thank everybody for their continued support and for protecting a cherished and vital service in the West End,” he said.
The Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum agreed and said they welcomed the news. “This branch is heavily used by local residents and businesses and there is an overwhelming case for keeping it open on a permanent basis.”