Sunday, June 01, 2008

Post Office struggle with the big question: Why not close Castle Mall?

Last week I sat as part of a Scrutiny panel that looked in detail at the work of the Post Office and their plans to shut multiple branches across Norfolk. My questions focused heavily on the support that PO Ltd. was giving to branches and the business plan of the Post Office (I would venture that they don't have one). Credit to the PO for turning up (and doing the later Public Meeting at the Puppet Theatre) but their information, analysis (and excuses) were pretty thin.

Although they spent much of the meeting on the ropes - and credit there goes to the Sub Post Masters rather than most of the timid councillors - it wasn't until the end that we got to one juicy mater. The Chair of Scrutiny, Cllr Stephenson, asked if giving the criticism of that branch Castle Mall would be considered for closure. The PO guys looked a bit shocked; it was a crown Post Office, they sluttered, and anyway it made a profit. I could resist asking if they thought that instead of migrating custom into the Castle Mall, if closing the branch culd lead to the emigration of custom out to smaller branches, such as Queens Road (New Lakenham), Vauxhall Street, Rosary Road and the like. Another flipsy excuse later, and I had to ask the blunt question - if eveyr other PO in the county and city is up for review, would they conceed that Castle Mall could be closed if it was proved to be the best option? Yes, or No? I think the answer was "no"; but at the later public meeting the same topic came up again and the PO seemed even less sure a few hours later. And I am grateful to a resident for writing to inform me that Norwich has lost 2 crown Post Offices in recent years.

So, come on Post Office let's have a real debate about the future of the Post Offices in Norwich, starting maybe with the Castle Mall.

UPDATE: I notice from last night's Evening News that Charles Clarke is on the attack too; this issue won't go away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Salient point about Castle Mall.
Frankly it should be a branch/sub post office IMO. Centrally already its overwhelmed and thus provides a second rate congested/ long wait service.

Another point, IMO there is a need for a "central" co located post office in the western area city centre ie around the Forum/City Hall. We have over 50 unprofitable old church buildings in the central area, nothing against beautiful churches; but what PO legacy for those where the routine trip a to PO fabric has its own ritual.

If PO's are not profit making why no look at creative service expansion/relocation say with liberies/ other shops etc. Creative entrepreneural management adapts, invests and evolve good brands; poor desparate management solely dives for the accounts with a carving knife. A declining service, your best most talented people go, retire. The enjoyment and committment ebbs.

The problem is like a stack of cards, once one degrades, profitable or not, the local convenience 5-15mins of a network, over time even profitable sub POs start to suffer and go under, one by one, until you get like banks/ building societies, one main office per city, with a faceless hole in the wall cash machine network.

Could the sub PO network be a cash /stamp machine network, or no network in 10 years?

I hope not. Automated services are not at the centre of communities, no they epitomize machines occasionally found in some public toilets.