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Village post offices on endangered list
10:24am Friday 4th October 2013 in News
IT IS a vital service in rural areas but for how much longer, will the village post office remain a part of the community?
That’s the question people are asking as Post Office chiefs prepare to downgrade services at some rural sub-branches, including West Wellow.
Tony and Karen Steer, who have run the village’s post office in Salisbury Road, for nine years are selling up after a fall in trade.
Karen said it was an extremely difficult decision to make. “We sell stationery, gifts, cards and toys and the post office is our main source of income. But it’s now impossible to survive on the money we have coming in.
“We’ve lost about 100 parcels a week going through the Post Office after new pricing charges were introduced. Small businesses that wanted to use us have are going elsewhere because of this.
“We were planning to see out our retirement here, but I don’t think this will happen.”
Karen added that she and her 59-year-old husband would love to stay in the village, but don’t know whether they will be able to afford to.
The couple were due to meet Post Office officials last night (Thursday) for crunch talks on the future of the facility.
In recent years, many sub-post offices have been downgraded to “locals” – post office counters which have been moved to other premises, usually convenient stores. Examples of this include Woodley and Cadnam – the latter is now based in a garage.
If this happens at Wellow, the business will no longer be a going concern, claim the Steers.
“We won’t be able to sell the business and the Post Office will have to find somewhere else in Wellow for the ‘Local’, which usually go in little supermarkets. If we can’t sell the business, we will have to turn it into residential accommodation and then try selling the property,” said 52-year-old Karen, who added that the premises has been a post office since 1929.
Romsey and Southampton North MP, Caroline Nokes, who lives in the village, said the existing post office service was vital to Wellow and other nearby communities. “West Wellow Post Office has been offering an extensive range of services, including car tax. Now the Post Office is seeking to change it to a ‘local’ which will see the withdrawal of some of the services – a significant loss to the community. “What has made me particularly angry about the proposed changes to West Wellow is that they were put forward without proper consultation with Tony and Karen and without anyone from the Post Office visiting the premises and being able to understand the layout and the other retail outlets in the village.”
When asked to comment on any proposed changes to services in the Romsey area, a Post Office spokesperson confirmed that there was only one and this is at Landford.
Said the spokesperson: “The agent at Landford has requested that we look to find a replacement operator. Customers should be assured that the Post Office is committed to maintaining a Post Office service in Landford and will work hard to ensure this. Consequently, we are currently assessing interest locally in running a new post office in this area. This could result in a relocation of the branch, and any such location would be subject to consultation.”
This week National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFS) launched the Protect our Post Offices campaign which calls on the Government to act to prevent further closures.
The NFS also wants the Government to halt the privatisation of Royal Mail.
General secretary of the NFS, George Thomson, said: “The Government and the Post Office Ltd continue to insist that all is well for the UK’s post offices, but we know that the reality is very different.
“Subpostmasters are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living from their post office, times have never been harder and urgent action is required to ensure this vital service remains in communities across the UK.”
Mr Thomson added that subpostmasters are increasingly dependent on Royal Mail income and around 30 per cent of their pay is generated by the sale of Royal Mail products.
Village post office which have been lost in recent years include Lockerley, Chilworth and West Tytherley.
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