We need to fight for it, or we will lose it.
That was the over-riding message to come from a public meeting to discuss the imminent threat to Burnley’s Crown Post Office.
The Post Office is planning to franchise 20% of Britain’s Crown post offices, including the one in Hargreaves Street, and this meeting gave staff and customers the chance to quiz Post Office managers on the long-standing service’s future.
Post Office stakeholder manager Julia Harrison was one of the guests on the panel and told the audience change was needed to get the Post Office back into profit.
“We have been charged with getting the Post Office back into profit by March 2015. We have had expressions of interest for all of the 70 branches but are still going through the selection process to see which are suitable. We are looking at putting a viable Post Office into a viable business within the town centre.
“If a franchise partner does not come forward that is suitable then we will not close.”
Martin Rouse, Post Office regional manager, said the Burnley branch lost £50,000 last year and was forecast to lose £76,000 this year.
However, Communication Workers’ Union assistant secretary Andy Furey, who was also on the panel, said he did not believe the figures and challenged the Post Office to open their books and make the process more transparent.
“It’s all smoke and mirrors. Burnley is not in the top 70 worst performing Crown offices so why pick on it? Even if these figures are true, it’s a small price to pay for a service as valuable as this.
“Staff at the Burnley branch have combined experience of 156 years. The new franchise partner is not going to want to take on their wages. If they got rid of one of the high up managers they would be able to keep it open.
“It’s sad we have to be here. Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition saying they want to keep open their local Crown Post Office. What the Post Office is suggesting can only lead to an inferior service.”
Post Office officials said a six-week consultation period would ensue once the franchise partner was chosen but many in the audience called this a “sham”.
Coun. Andy Tatchell, secretary of the CWU North Lancashire and Cumbria branch, was in the audience and said: “I’ve been with the union for 25 years and, in that time, 26 Crown offices have been threatened with franchising and of the six that didn’t go through, that was only because the franchise partners backed out.
“There is no evidence throughout the whole of Lancashire and Cumbria that the consultation process has any resonance whatsoever.”
Mr Furey said one option would be to boycott the eventual franchise partner.
“People power is important. We’ve got to put pressure on the potential partner not to take this on. This is a closure. The public will be getting an inferior service.”