Islington pensioners up in arms over threat to future of Post Offices

Post office staff and CWU supporters at Holloway Post Office

Post office staff and CWU supporters at Holloway Post Office - Credit: Archant

A campaign to protect Islington’s Post Offices has been launched as a 12 week consultation on their future gets underway.

The fates of two crown offices in Upper Street and one in Holloway Road are under threat with at least one set to close and the remaining two downsized and moved to different locations. A question mark is also hanging over jobs, with the service expected to reduce the number of roles at the borough branches.

Pensioners are up in arms about the proposed changes – about a third of people aged 65 and over rely heavily on the convenience of the current locations and say losing one while moving the other two will have a huge impact on accessibility.

So strong is mounting opposition that Islington Pensioners’ Forum (IPF) – which saw off threats to the Upper Street Post Office in 1995 – have launched a campaign.

George Durack, an IPF member and former postman in Islington for more than 30 years, said: “The Post Office is such a vital service for our community and I never thought they would finish up trying to get shot of them.

“Not all old people are versatile with the internet and things like that and we still need them to for our letter sending.”

The Tufnell Park resident added: “They’re saying they’ll create a counter in another shop somewhere but we don’t want to have to queue up while someone buys their week’s shopping. It’s a disgrace. Less Post Offices and less services cannot be a good thing.”

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But the Post Office says the level of services will remain the same despite moving the branches into smaller retail spaces with counters such as in WH Smith.

A spokesman said the move is part of a strategy to save £40million being lost annually to run crown office services across the country.

For every £1.94 being ploughed into the Holloway Road branch only £1 is generated in return.

Islington Council leader Catherine West said: “We were under the impression from the current Government they wouldn’t allow Post Office closures because people rely on the service and there has been very little consultation.

“We are very worried about the suggestions of reductions in services. I feel that in inner city communities we need services to stay local. We need community police stations, community fire stations and post offices.

“I think there are parts of the Post Office service that need to be cross-subsidised in some way. But in inner city areas it’s going to be running in a way which needs a bit more subsidy than in other areas.

“Potential privatisation means companies can cherry-pick services but the Post Office has to deliver by law to every single address.”

A Post Office spokesman said: “In terms of our plans for Holloway our aim is to find a suitable retailer from which the branch can operate.

“They would offer the same range of Post Office services from a new modern retail space which has to be suitable to meet the needs of customers in the area.

“No discussions have been entered into with potential partners yet. We aim to make these changes by April 2015. If a suitable retailer is found there will be no compulsory redundancies.

“People will have the option to redeploy within the business or transfer to the new retailer, as well as the compromise agree.”

A 12-week consultation with customers will open shortly.