There is a proposal to move the Southend High Street main post office to the upstairs of the nearby WH Smith shop: you can read and comment on the proposal here. Please click 'Read more' below to see the Southend Labour view.
If this proposed move goes ahead it will be to the detriment of many people who use the current Post Office, and most especially those who have difficulty with stairs or queuing. The proposals indicate that access the new Post Office will be possible by lift but, as anyone who has been to the current building knows, the queues for that will be ridiculous. The elderly, infirm & disabled in particular rely on the post Office to carry out many transactions. Many of those people, and many others, have basic bank accounts with the Post Office and need to use a building which is accessible and with short waiting times for service.
Concerns have also been raised about how things could be handled in the event of a fire or someone being taken ill. Getting even one ill person down to ground level in an emergency could be awkward – it would surely put lives at risk if the first floor of the building had to be evacuated when a substantial number of the customers at the time are likely to be using walking sticks, mobility scooters or have small children in pushchairs. All lifts would, of course, would be out of action during a fire. The Post Office’s General Manager has responded to such concerns so far by saying that existing procedures will be reviewed and changed if their own risk assessment finds that necessary.
The current building is almost always busy and very often full. Moving its facilities to smaller and less accessible premises will only exacerbate that situation.
The Post Office is, unlike the Royal Mail, still a publicly-owned organisation - it belongs to us, not to private shareholders - although its management seems to place little store on public accountability.
The proposal document refers to a ‘public consultation’ but the decision might have already been agreed at a senior level and, if insufficient responses are received, it will probably be said to have been justified on the basis that most residents didn’t object. Please therefore read and respond to the proposal: you will need to submit your views before the closing date of 14th September, either online or to the postal address given in the document.
The local Labour Party is not bringing this to public attention for political reasons and it would be good if objections to the proposal receive cross-party support. Ian Gilbert, Leader of the Labour Group on Southend Council, has already expressed his opposition, as have our other Labour Councillors. The Conservative administration on Southend Council and the town’s two Conservative MPs have so far been silent on the matter.
You have until only the 14th September to tell the Post Office’s management what you think, so please take part in the consultation and ask your friends and others to do the same. It is possible, with enough public opposition, that the proposal will be withdrawn and the existing service retained - or perhaps even improved.