Could Cumbernauld Post Office’s days be numbered? Sources say town centre PO will close in March 2014

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 12:18 on 17 December 2013.
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Cumbernauld Post Office to close in March, sources say. Picture: Cumbernauld Media.
 




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FEARS over the future of Cumbernauld’s main Post Office have been raised in the past few days, as a date is apparently pencilled in for the Office’s closure.

Sources at the Post Office have told Cumbernauld Media that it could soon be the final post of the day for the Office, which is apparently set to close in March, next year.

Suggestions of the Teviot Walk Post Office closure have lingered around since before parent company, Post Office Ltd, launched a consultation into the proposals to franchise seventy-five Crown Post Offices across the UK.

Back in February, we reported that the Post Office were seeking to find an alternative location for Cumbernauld’s main Post Office, as it was named on a list of five Scottish Offices where the Post Office would seek franchise partners.

That list included Post Offices in Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Stornoway, Perth and Alloa, with a six-week consultation launched immediately after the news broke.

In February, a spokesperson for the Post Office told Cumbernauld Media: “We are currently undertaking the biggest business transformation programme in the history of the Post Office. 

“Our overall investment will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs. 

“Crown branches are a fundamental part of our long term growth strategy and need to be brought into profit (currently operating at a £40m annual loss). 

“To maintain our high street presence we will be looking to find retail partners for 70 of our branches enabling us to stay in these locations.”

The Post Office sought to reassure local residents and service users that no final decision had been made.
 
The spokesperson added: “The 70 branches that have the potential to be partnered with a retailer will be subject to a six week public consultation to gather the views of the local community. We are committed to having a Post Office branch within the area.”

Following the launch of the consultation, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East Labour MP, Gregg McClymont arranged a consultation meeting, with Post Office and union officials.

Held in Cumbernauld’s Muirfield Community Education Centre on 10th May 2013 local residents were given the chance to quiz Post Office representatives, Connie Hewitt and Sally Buchannan.

Addressing concerns, PO representative Sally said: “Based on statistics, from September 2011 to September 2012, the operating costs of the Cumbernauld Crown Post Office is £177,000 – meaning that for each £1 of income, £2.63 is required to generate this £1 of income.

“If there was a risk to service then we would undertake an audit, and there are a number of reasons why the network is under risk and the team try very hard to temporarily uphold services.

“We are very experienced when Post Offices fail or services are at risk. We have a strong team who can successfully run good temporary services.

“Whether it’s one position or seven, we’ll move heaven and earth to keep the service going.”

As the meeting moved on, a Cumbernauld-based Post Office worker suggested that Cumbernauld town centre’s Post Office was on a forty year lease, asking the representatives where a new Post Office would be located.

Responding, Sally said: “When we enter a negotiation with the property’s landlord, we may find a breakaway clause, every three to four years, which will allow us to end the contract. However, we will look at each property in turn.

“Nonetheless, we have begun to advertise the Cumbernauld Crown Post Office; looking for a retailer who wishes to work in partnership.

“When we receive a request we will look seriously at the feasibility of any such retail partner, although there is no sense in moving it out of the Town Centre – that much is essential.

“However, if we don’t find a partner, in the end then the Post Office will stay where it is, as it is.”

Since the public meeting a number of strikes have taken place, at Cumbernauld’s Post Office – the latest being held yesterday (17 December), as staff members continue to seek support from the public.

The entire saga looks as if it may soon be over, however, after the Communication Worker’s Union unveiled its 'Agenda for growth, stability and long term success', was published by the CWU, last week. 

The ‘Agenda’ agreement was unveiled last week, with CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward hailing the agreement as “breaking new ground”.

He said: "The agreement breaks new ground in the UK by incorporating extensive legally binding protections for employees alongside a commitment to improve industrial stability. 

“The legal protections for Royal Mail employees come hard on the heels of the privatisation of the company and are unprecedented in delivering the strongest protections for employees. 

“This is a good deal for the company and customers as well as for employees, but investors should be clear that this agreement commits them to growth and there will be no tolerance to a race to the bottom on services and jobs."

Members of the CWU will vote on the agreement next month, with protections outlined in the agreement including a pay deal that amounts to a 9.06% compound increase over the next three years, with legal protections for employees, until January 2019 including guarantees of no outsourcing, sell-offs, or transfers; any part of its business; that the Post Office continues as an end-to-end service provider, with no franchising of “any part of its business”.

If passed by CWU members in January, it might ensure that Cumbernauld Post Office is not farmed out to a retail partner, although a Post Office spokesperson has said that the CWU's 'Agenda' doesn't necessarily represent the Post Office's position.

Nonetheless, sources at Cumbernauld Post Office have told Cumbernauld Media that the Teviot Walk facility is on its way out in March, next year – regardless of the CWU’s ‘Agenda’, or the scrapping of the Post Office’s ‘Franchise and Modernisation’ programme.

As this article went to publication a Post Office spokesperson sought to confirm that Cumbernauld Post Office will not be closing, reassuring customers that "service will continue as it does presently". 

The spokesperson said: “Figures for 2012/2013 show that the Crown Post Office network of 370 branches directly owned and operated by Post Office Ltd made a loss of £37 million. This is public money and this is clearly not a sustainable position. With regard to Cumbernauld Post Office specifically, the branch costs £2.63 for every £1 of revenue made, and this loss-making position must be rectified.
 
“Cumbernauld Post Office is one of 70 branches identified as best suited to operating with a franchise partner in the future. As and when a potential franchise partner has been identified and a proposal to make changes to the service is made, customers will be informed. Proposed changes will be subject to a public consultation, and the Post Office will host a public customer forum to give more information on the proposals, with all interested parties invited to attend.
 
“Cumbernauld Post Office will not be closing. Until a suitable franchise partner is identified and any plans confirmed following the consultation process, service will continue as it does presently.”
 
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