Negotiations continue in bid to keep village post office open
PUBLISHED: 07:42 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 07:42 17 May 2019
The post office in Newport closed its doors on Monday, but negotiations are ongoing to see if a new deal can be struck to make the business profitable.
Postmaster Alan Carr, who runs Newport Village Stores, where the post office is located, terminated his contract with the Post Office in December last year, saying it was a difficult decision but it was costing him money to provide the service.
At the time of the announcement, he said: "It is a very difficult situation. I am sad for the people of Newport. It was a really hard decision. It was not something I wanted to do."
The post office closed at 10pm on Monday but is scheduled to reopen on Monday, June 3, at 9am.
Mr Carr said: "It will then remain open for four weeks to enable the post office to explore a different contract to our existing one or to look for alternative arrangements. In the first week of July, we will either carry on with the post office services or close it down."
Mr Carr thanked district councillors Anthony Gerard and Neil Hargreaves for their support and MP Kemi Badenoch for helping to try and secure better terms to retain the post office.
Cllr Hargreaves said the post office wasn't making enough money to stay open and this was the reason behind the closure. But he said negotiations were ongoing with staff from Post Office Ltd to see if any changes can be made to make the business profitable. "Alan will reopen in June to give more time for negotiations. Post Office Ltd representatives have been involved and had meetings with us," Cllr Hargreaves said. "The post office here just isn't profitable because the company have been cutting commission. It's difficult to pay his staff when it's not profitable.
"The Government was tasked with keeping all post offices open, but also to make a profit, so to ensure that happens, they are screwing local post offices by cutting commission. So post offices like Newport are losing money because the post office is cutting back on the commission."
Cllr Hargreaves emphasised that footfall at the store wasn't a problem and instead, it was post office services such as free returns which was damaging business.
"It's hugely efficient because it's the same staff as the shop and it brings in footfall," he said. "And it's busy all the time with local people and local businesses using it to send their parcels. There's always footfall there, so it's not a failing business. It's just the post office which can't be made profitable. One solution would be to charge for free returns."
Councillors and residents hope Post Office representatives can offer a better deal to Mr Carr and his staff to ensure the service remains open permanently.
"It's difficult to see how they can provide a better deal for Newport without doing it elsewhere, but I hope they do have a think about it," Cllr Hargreaves said. "Hopefully they realise that they could lose the business and shoot themselves in the foot." A Post Office spokesman, said: "Post Office Ltd representatives had a constructive meeting with the Newport postmaster and local councillors last week. We discussed how we might work together to help sustain Newport post office for this expanding community. The postmaster has agreed to continue to operate the post office until the week beginning July 1. During that time we will discuss what increased support we can provide to the postmaster to make the branch more viable.
"We are committed to ensuring our postmasters receive fair remuneration for the vital services they provide to customers and communities and we continually review fees offered to postmasters.
"We recognise that all retailers face a challenge in ensuring that their costs are met and through our recent modernisation programme, we have invested heavily in enabling retailers to operate their businesses more efficiently - for example, we've been making it easier for retailers to provide Post Office services alongside the retail counter. This allows the retailer to keep down staff costs as the same person can operate the post office and retail till."
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Saffron Walden Reporter. Click the link in the orange box above for details.