Debbie Abrahams, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, together with fellow Oldham MPs, Jim McMahon and Angela Rayner, has held talks with a Post Office representative to discuss urgent action on the planned closure of the Oldham town centre branch.
At the meeting in the Houses of Parliament, the MPs highlighted the clear problems with proposed move, notably access to the site at WH Smith for elderly and disabled customers, as well as the potential for worker’s rights to be downgraded.
Post Office Limited have admitted the Oldham branch is ‘a busy branch from the point of view of customer visits.’
But they insist the proposed new site at WH Smith is large enough to accommodate this demand. This is despite admitting some services will not carry over, and employees rights are at risk.
If the closure goes ahead the Post Office say most services currently offered through the branch will transfer over to the new location.
However, the ATM at the site will be lost and the UK Visa and Immigration Biometric Enrolment Service will not continue either.
The rights of branch employees also remain uncertain, with Post Office Limited confirming: “We absolutely recognise that this is an uncertain and difficult time for our colleagues that work at the branch.
“We will be providing them with all the information they require around their options and offering any support they need once the branch starts its period of public consultation.”
A written Parliamentary question from the three MPs has been sent to the Postal Service Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP demanding an explanation from her as to why the closures are going ahead.
Post Office Limited are working towards a consultation starting from January onwards, and it is an opportunity to highlight the importance of this local service to the people of Oldham.
Debbie Abrahams said: “Our post office is a vital community asset to the people of Oldham and it shouldn’t be downgraded and hived off to prop up a struggling private sector retailer.
“There has been no effort at consulting local people about this move by either Post Office Ltd or the Government and it’s no wonder when Consumer Focus and Citizen’s Advice have reported longer queues, inferior service and poor disabled access when Crown offices are transferred to WHSmith.
“There are many unanswered questions such as how much money has been earmarked for payments to staff in this round of privatisations and what financial oversight does the Government maintain over the use of public money by Post Office Ltd to run the post office network?”
Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, said: “Post Office have proven that they do not have the interests of local customers and employees at heart.
“They appear incapable of understanding that the loss of our Post Office is damaging on so many levels.
“We lose an institution from the high street; employees risk having their pay and conditions trampled on by a second-rate employer; and all we get in return is a poor imitation of a proper service, which for years has been valued on the high street.”