www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
The barely legible poster currently stuck to the door of the Post Office

The barely legible poster currently stuck to the door of the Post Office

Round One to the Save the Post Office campaign

On Tuesday last, a Post Office Ltd representative broke the news to St Leonards Crown Post Office staff that plans for their workplace have changed. Mr Muttiah, the ‘preferred franchisee’ to take on the franchise and buy the building, had chosen not to go ahead with the deal. Erica Smith of the Save the St Leonards Post Office campaign tells us more about the latest state of play.

© Danny Mooney

© Danny Mooney

The Save the St Leonards Crown Post Office Campaign group are delighted that Mr Muttiah has chosen not to take on our post office. His intention to turn it into yet another newsagent/tobacconist was not a good business plan and would have done nothing to improve St Leonards. We were also concerned about his criminal record for selling alcohol for minors at a sub-Post Office that he managed.

However, we feel that this is only a Round One victory. Post Office Ltd now want to put in a temporary franchisee from January 2018, until a permanent franchisee can be found to take over the post office. We are very concerned about this. It appears to be a way of stripping our post office of Crown (directly owned and managed) status, and it is unsettling for post office staff. We do not understand why a temporary franchisee is needed, especially since Hastings Borough Council have already expressed an interest in working with PO Ltd to provide a sound future for the building and the staff.

00posterFurthermore, Potent Solutions – the company that PO Ltd want to contract to run the temporary franchise – appears to have a questionable history. It appears to be a company with one director and a history of paying its bills very late. It is basically an agency which provides temporary staff for post offices.

According to CWU representative Moray Meade, there is no precedent for PO Ltd to pass a post office into temporary ownership. We feel that St Leonards is being punished for running a successful campaign of opposition to PO Ltd’s plans because we are concerned about the future of our Crown Post Office.

“We do not understand why Post Office Ltd aren’t working to find a sustainable future for our Post Office – they just want to rush through a quick sale to get rid of the bricks and mortar and the responsibility of running a Crown Post Office. St Leonards deserves better than this!”

Potent Solutions

Below are examples of the information that two Save the St Leonards Crown Post Office campaigners have discovered about Potent Solutions via an  internet search and Experian database information:

  • PO Ltd say they have been a client of Potent Solutions for nine years,  yet Potent Solutions is only six years old.
  • For the most part the company has operated at a huge loss in a negative cash position.
  • Days beyond terms are currently 180 days (the average amount of time they take to settle their invoices).
  • In March this year they were issued a first gazette notice to be struck off the Companies House registrar, which was cancelled in April. These notices normally indicate that the owner has requested to fold the company or their annual filing is extremely overdue and they are scheduled to be struck off.
  • Potent Solutions was run by a sole trader until it became incorporated in 2015. It has only one director. It claims to ‘work with 32 Post Offices across the country’, but that just means that it supplies sub-contracted workers on a temporary basis. According to Acocks Green Focus Group’s blog on them, these temporary workers are individually contracted to PO Ltd.
  • The company has set up a subsidiary called ZCO, which has no trading record at all but bids for franchises.

PO Ltd’s plans to use the services of Potent Solutions in St Leonards will not, in our view, be in the interests of local people. We call on our MP, Amber Rudd, to take up this issue with the relevant minister of state, Margot James.

Post Office Ltd claim there will only be a 2-week window for invitations to tender for the franchise. It is really important that local residents express their concerns to PO Ltd:

comments@postoffice.co.uk
and copy in to your message:

amber.rudd.mp@parliament.uk
cllr.peter.chowney@hastings.gov.uk

richard.brown@citizensadvice.org.uk (Citizens Advice are the watchdog for PO Ltd consultation procedure).

For more information, visit the campaign’s Facebook page and follow this link for more articles on HOT.

Posted 15:20 Thursday, Nov 16, 2017 In: Campaigns


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