Jo Swinson MP
Member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire
House of Commons
SW1A OAA 20/07/07
Dear Ms Swinson
Post Office® Kirkintilloch branch
Kerr Street, Kirkintilloch, G66 1JY
Thank you for your recent letter and enclosed appendix on behalf of local constituents concerning our plans to franchise the above Post Office branch. I have been asked to reply as National Consultation Team Leader with responsibilities for network change.
As you are aware the consultation process is designed to both inform our customers and the wider community of our proposals, and to invite them to comment on the plans. It is not designed as a process that seeks approval for our plans or to obtain a majority vote in favour of them. The formal consultation enables our customers, their elected representatives and the community to gauge how the change will affect them and as part of this process we specifically invite feedback on operational, service aspects of the new branch. All representations received into the department are noted, responded to and considered as we finalise our plans.
In this respect I can confirm that your opposition to our plans is noted. I would also like to take this opportunity of further explaining our position in this matter and addressing the specific points raised within your correspondence.
Convenience of current location:-
We fully understand the vital role Post Office branches play in the local community and we are all committed to providing a service to the public. Indeed, following the transfer Kirkintilloch Post Office branch will retain the status of a main Post Office and continue to offer the same range of products and services as at present including; personal banking; financial services; car tax renewal; Post Office card account; passport application and foreign currency services. The only difference will be that WHSmith will operate the branch from their premises on our behalf alongside their retail business.
Social issues are very carefully considered and a great deal of preparation work is undertaken locally before our plans are submitted into public consultation. Indeed, a Post Office Ltd planning team has visited Kirkintilloch to physically walk between the current branch and the planned new location, taking into account the terrain, the distance between sites, the convenience of other branches and local public transport availability.
Consideration is also given to access and whether the new site is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act; particular attention is paid to the needs of the less able, the elderly, those without cars, and those with pushchairs and wheelchairs alike. We do, however, appreciate that it is impossible to meet the requirements of every individual customer and that plans such as this may inconvenience some of our customers, for which I can only offer my apologies. Having said that, however, equally, there are some customers who will be unaffected by our plans and, indeed, find the new location advantageous to their needs.
WHSmith premises will be too small:
WHSmith are highly experienced in utilising space and have identified additional space in their store that can be used to accommodate the Post Office. It is a complex integration but this has been very successfully achieved with the six trial stores that transferred to WHSmith last year. Naturally, some internal reorganisation will be required by WHSmith to accommodate the branch and ensure all available space is utilised effectively. Current usage of the existing Post Office has been carefully analysed and our planning team have been working closely with WHSmith to ensure the new layout in Kirkintilloch successfully accommodates the level of business. There will be a dedicated area within the WHSmith branch, which will provide adequate space for the installation of the Post Office counter and queuing system.
The new branch will be in a modern, customer friendly open plan format with state of the art low-level writing desks and serving counters. Before the new branch opens for business the planned Post Office counter area within the WHSmith premises will undergo extensive refurbishment and there will be a clear access route to the this area which will be carefully integrated into the current store, providing adequate room for Post Office and retail customers alike.
Congestion will be caused by the move to WHSmith:
As previously stated a great deal of preparation work is undertaken locally before any proposal is submitted into public consultation. Whilst we appreciate that it would be impossible to make a network change without inconveniencing some of our customers, we firmly believe that our plans will not significantly impede customer access to our services in Kirkintilloch.
I fully sympathise with the general congestion and difficulties faced in today’s society but all we can do, at the point of submitting a case into public consultation, is state the facts of the case and the various car parking facilities available to customers. In this respect parking at the new location is restricted by a single yellow line with two designated disabled parking bays available with lowered pavements within 50 yards of the WHSmith store. An additional five designated disabled parking bays are available in the large car park behind the William Patrick library where parking is free and plentiful.
Kerr Street is a busy Post Office so should not move:
Of course, there is no denying that the current branch is busy and has a steady flow of customers throughout the week. I can fully appreciate the perception portrayed that this may affect future standards of service at a new branch with less serving positions. However, we firmly believe the new branch would cope efficiently with the expected levels of business. The number of counter positions has been carefully calculated based on both the current and future predicted business levels and the level of counter coverage will be commensurate to meet customer flow, especially during peak periods.
WHSmith are fully conversant with the level of service that our customers, and indeed Post Office Ltd expect. I am satisfied that they have the experience, expertise and enthusiasm required to manage this branch to those same high standards. Furthermore a team of Post Office Ltd and WHSmith managers will work closely together on an ongoing basis to monitor and develop all aspects of the new branch.
Fear of losing the Post Office overall if WHSmith pull out in the future:
In respect of your comments about the long-term future of the branch should the change of management proceed as planned; our franchised branches have a proven track record of providing a sustainable service to customers. Our contract with WHSmith guarantees that this branch will be operated for a minimum period of seven years. Post Office Ltd and WHSmith are both equally committed to making a success of this venture and we look forward to a long and mutually prosperous business partnership with them.
As you know, the period of public consultation has now come to an end and we are currently in the process of reviewing all of the feedback received.
In closing, may I thank you for your time taken to write to us and for the feedback you have provided. I hope that I have gone some way to responding to the issues you have raised. Our final plans for Kirkintilloch Post Office branch will be communicated shortly.
Jane Lynskey (Mrs)
Consultation Team Leader
Post Office Ltd
National Consultation Team
PO Box 2060,
The Post Office® is able to supply customers with this information, free of charge, in an alternative format for people who are visually impaired. To obtain a copy, call the Post Office® helpline on 08457 22 33 44 or textphone 08457 22 33 55.