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The St Leonards Crown Post Office door shut for the last time tonight at 5.30pm

An impotent solution for St Leonards Post Office

At 5.30pm today, Wednesday 17 January, the doors closed for the final time on St Leonards Crown Post Office. Erica Smith from Save St Leonards Crown Post Office campaign gives us an update on the latest plans for the Post Office.

The doors are planned to re-open on Tuesday 23 January, but the Post Office will never again have Crown Status. Post Office Ltd intend to hand over the franchise to a company called Potent Solutions. Both the Save St Leonards Crown Post Office campaigners and the Communication Workers Union have been lobbying Post Office Ltd and Amber Rudd with serious concerns about the ability of Potent Solutions to run an appropriate service.

We thought Mr Muttiah, PO Ltd’s original choice, didn’t look like an appropriate franchisee, but if anything Potent Solutions Ltd look even worse. It reflects very poorly on Post Office Ltd that they have chosen to wipe out Crown status by passing the running of the Post Office over to a company which is offering such appalling terms to the staff.

The campaign group’s understanding of the situation is that staff will be given weekly contracts by Potent Solutions. The process of making the staff redundant and getting them re-employed on minimum wage by Potent Solutions Ltd  appears to break TUPE  (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment) regulations.

Potent Solutions are only given a weekly contract by Post Office Ltd. The weekly contracts for staff are for £7.50 an hour, with no sick pay, pension or holiday allowances. A CWU representative said: “The number of staff hours is being reduced from 200 hours per week to 158 hours per week – so despite the longer opening hours on Saturdays, the quality of service will be diminished.” The Post Office is also losing its cleaner so the staff will have to cover cleaning duties too.

On Friday 12 January, a delegation from the Save St Leonards Post Office Campaign visited local MP Amber Rudd to voice their concerns about the financial instability of Potent Solutions. Campaigner Ollie Watson said: “Considering the current landscape presently regarding the Carillion debacle, I think it is in the national interest to press the Post Office further on this matter.”

Campaigners are hoping that pressure from Amber Rudd and public opinion will make Post Office Ltd re-consider their decision at the eleventh hour.

“The fight for our Crown Post Office is not over yet.” said Rod Webb, who has been an active campaigner for over a year now. “This is a national scandal which has been ignored so far because each local Post Office is picked off one by one. But public and press awareness of the dissolution of the Crown Post Offices is rising.”

00POqueueAnd this is what it’s like using Hastings’ franchised post office…

Julia Price writes:This is Hastings Post Office at 4:50 pm on a Saturday. Approx 15 people queuing, one Post Office operative serving. The whole of the designated queue area was full; two “lanes”. One wheelchair; not an ideal area to negotiate.

I spoke to a member of W H Smith staff before joining the queue and asked if it was always like this. He said ‘Yes, generally it is. And sometimes it’s worse, with people queuing outside of the designated queue area.’ A lady I spoke to in the queue said the same. ‘Christmas was awful’, she said.

I asked the young member of staff, the only one serving in the Post Office, if this was normal. She said, ‘There should have been one other member of staff, who works shorter hours anyway, but she was off sick.’

I asked her if she’d worked for the Post Office when it was in the old building. She said no, she’d worked in the post office at Waitrose in Hawkhurst. I asked, had she been trained by Post Office Ltd for her job there? She said, ‘Well… there are some training sessions,’ and then she applied to come to Hastings ‘and the manager here has trained me’. Her tone was not strong or sure. I asked if she had to sign any confidentiality forms because of the nature of the post office work; passports, people posting legal documents etc. She said, not very convincingly, ‘Oh, umm, yes’.”

For more articles on St Leonards Crown Post Office, read these stories.

Posted 19:44 Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018 In: Campaigns

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