Response from Jo Swinson MP on behalf of East Dunbartonshire constituents
On 29 May a consultation was launched on the proposed move of Kirkintilloch Post Office on Kerr Street to the WH Smith branch on Cowgate. Over the last 6 weeks I have sought the view of my constituents on this matter, and over 350 have signed a petition with the following message for Post Office Ltd:
“We the undersigned urge Post Office Ltd to reconsider the decision to move Kirkintilloch Post Office to WH Smith, and instead to guarantee a secure future for this busy and well-used local service in Kerr Street.”
Many have also written in comments about the proposed move, some of which are included in quotation marks in this report. All of the comments received so far are listed in the appendix in full. I have compiled this report in response to the consultation on behalf of my constituents, to enable their views to be heard directly by the management of Post Office Ltd. There is a strong feeling that Post Office Ltd should think again, and find other solutions to improve the profitability of this branch.
Kirkintilloch Post Office, based in Kerr Street, is the main Post Office for the town, which also has three sub-post offices: Merkland, Rosebank and Waterside. The 2001 census gives the following information about Kirkintilloch:
- Population over 20,000
- 20% of people are over 60
- 21% have a limiting long-term illness
- 33% have no access to car
Kirkintilloch is also the nearest main shopping area for Lenzie, which has almost 9,000 residents. While there is one sub-post office in Lenzie, many residents there also use the main Kerr Street office, and have responded in large numbers to the consultation.
The reasons for keeping the Kirkintilloch Post Office in Kerr Street are:
- Convenience of current location
- WH Smith premises will be too small
- Congestion will be caused by move to WH Smith
- Kerr Street is a busy Post Office so should not move
- Fear of losing the Post Office overall if WH Smith pull out in future
- 1. Convenience of current location
Many people are concerned that closing the Kerr Street branch will be a major inconvenience, because it is ideally located in the centre of Kirkintilloch. Elderly residents have complained it will be more difficult for them to travel the extra distance to WH Smith.
“The heart of the town buzzes around it, to close it would be a tragedy”
“This Post Office is the hub of the town and should remain this way.”
“WH Smith is not in the centre of town.”
“With seriously arthritic knee joints, walking is now quite problematic. Adding distance will certainly make matters worse.”
- 2. WH Smith premises will be too small
Customers have highlighted the lack of space within WH Smith to house the Post Office in addition to its current retail offer. The current facility at Kerr Street is extremely well-used and often busy with large queues. Placing the Post Office at the back of the WH Smith store will cause problems for people with buggies, prams or wheelchairs making their way through the store, especially at peak times.
“WH Smith has a totally inadequate area to replace the Post Office building which can contain the queues at the busy periods.”
“I rely on the Post Office for my business and already find myself frustrated by long queues. How will this work in a smaller shop?”
“Between customers for stationery and other bits and bobs there will not be enough room in store especially on pension days.”
“At times the queue snakes round the entire Post Office. I don’t think WH Smith has enough floor space to cope with this.”
- 3. Congestion will be caused by move to WH Smith
Local people have worries about the impact on local traffic and pedestrian congestion in the area, and in addition several people mentioned the problems that would be caused for people with disabilities due to lack of parking and facilities for taxi drop off.
“No facility for disabled parking.”
“A big mistake because it will cause more congestion at an already busy spot.”
“I feel this move will cause a lot of congestion at this very busy junction.”
“Access for disabled not appropriate when coming by taxi.”
- 4. Kerr Street is a busy Post Office so should not move
Lots of people pointed to the fact that the current Post Office is always busy. This raises the problems already mentioned about space and congestion in the proposed new location at WH Smith. Several people pointed out the potential problems at Christmas time.
“I feel it is an utter disgrace to even think of closing this busy post office.”
“I have never visited the post office in Kirkintilloch and found it quiet, it is always busy. It seems strange to close it.”
“Not a practical decision especially at Christmas time.”
- 5. Fear of losing the Post Office overall if WH Smith pull out in future
Finally, there is an understandable fear that at some future point WH Smith may decide, like Morrisons in 2004, that they no longer wanted a partnership with the Post Office. Even if Post Office Ltd were to look for an alternative venue in that scenario, there is no guarantee one would be found, as was nearly the case in Bishopbriggs in 2005. Post Office Ltd have a duty to find other innovative ways to improve their business performance, without alienating and inconveniencing their loyal customers, who are often some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“Post Office management should pull their commercial socks up - and connect with their customers.”
“The post office provides an important service to the community, and should not be dependant on the ‘retailer’.”
“It would be chaotic without our Post Office.”
Jo Swinson MP
11 July 2007