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Residents oppose town post office "privatisation"
5:41pm Friday 13th September 2013 in News
RESIDENTS have deliverred a clear message to Post Office executives - leave our main branch alone.
The company is looking to close Chester-le-Street's Crown post office in Front Street and franchise all the services currently provided there.
The branch is one of 70 across the country that the company says are losing money.
But residents fear the quality of the franchised service will be worse and the new premises may be harder to access for the elderly and disabled.
About 50 people, including North Durham MP Kevan Jones, attended a public meeting in Chester-le-Street Parish Centre today (Friday September 13) called by the Commubnication Workers Union (CWU), which is concerned about the impact on the branch's 11 employees.
Post Office representatives Julie Thomas and Steve Brookshaw said the company was looking at expressions of interest in running the service from about four firms.
Once a potential partner was chosen there would be a formal six-week copnsultation before a decision was taken.
Andy Furey. a CWU national executive member, who described the consultation as a "sham" because it was limited in scope and did not get a public veto on franchisee or location.
Members of the public raised concerns about the loss or skilled and experienced staff, the size of the new premises and the location.
Rumours in the town suggested a store at the top of a hill some way from bus stops was possible. The building is rented from the Royal Mail - now a separate company - and some people are worried what will happen to the parcels collection office that is part of it.
Ms Thomas and Mr Brookshaw denied claims from some spealers that it was a "done deal" and a commercial partner had already been selected.
Some voiced fears that there would be fewer staff and that the service would ber worse.
One man said: "All you need to take away from Chester-le-Street is that nobody in the town wants the post office closed. That is the bottom line" Afterwards Mr Furey said the public response in Chester-le-Street was one of the best he had witnessesd
"I thought it was very lively and I am delighted at the public support for the Crown Post Office and the staff, I hope that the Post Office will listen to the public opinion and if they don't, then we'll organise a boycott against the potential partner," he said.
He added that the union would be contacting community groups against what he described as the "privatisation " of the town's post office.
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