Cities of London and Westminster MP, Mark Field, met with representatives of the Post Office and WHSmith this week to express Soho residents’ concerns about plans to relocate their local Post Office.
Following news that the Crown Post Office network is set to lose £70m next year, cost-cutting proposals are being considered which would see a number of Post Offices incorporated into WHSmith stores. The Poland Street branch in Soho is one of the Post Offices which stand to be affected, and if the plans get the go-ahead, it will be moved to WHSmith in Oxford Street’s Plaza shopping complex in May 2008.
Since the plans were announced earlier this year, Mark has received letters and telephone calls from a number of concerned local residents who fear that the move could affect services in the area. Visiting the Plaza’s WHSmith store on Tuesday to investigate the proposed site, he presented to the transfer team a residents’ petition containing several hundred signatures as well as a number of letters he had received on the issue.
Mark said that the new store would need to be easily accessible for older residents, and able to deal with the volume of work generated by the local business community. He also made clear the wish of many residents to see WHSmith retain Poland Street’s skilled Post Office staff.
With eight counters, a user-friendly layout, and later opening hours to ensure queuing times stay below five minutes, the team hopes that the WHSmith site will be well-equipped to deal with the business trade. A spacious area on the ground floor has been earmarked for Post Office counters, and Mark was pleased to see that there was level access from both Berners Street and Oxford Street. It is hoped that the contract between both parties would be for at least seven years, and Mark was assured that WHSmith is keen to retain Poland Street staff and is offering them incentives to transfer.
The public consultation on the move will run until 31 July, and Mark has been told that the petition, the views of local residents and his own concerns will be taken into account. He is now encouraging residents with any further concerns to make their views known to the Post Office team before the consultation deadline.
To comment on the proposals
Write: Mrs Philippa Wright, National Consultation Manager, Post Office Ltd., c/o National Consultation Team, PO Box 2060, Watford, WD18 8ZW
Tel: 01226 273550
Email: via website www.postoffice.co.uk