Uckfield Post Office looks set to move to the WHSmith branch in the town’s High Street.
The plan is to open for longer and introduce a Sunday service. A modern, open-plan branch is promised with improved accessibility and with the same range of Post Office products and services.
The WHSmith branch at 33 High Street is 190 metres from the current Post Office site at 75 High Street.
A six-week public consultation is due to being on Monday (October 14) with customers and interested parties invited to comment on the proposal.
The move is part of a major modernisation programme across the Post Office network designed to ensure Post Office branches are sustainable, profitable and no longer reliant on Government funding. The modernisation programme aims to make it easier for customers to do business, through longer opening hours and modern, open-plan environments.
Uckfield Post Office is currently one of 369 Crown branches which are directly owned by Post Office Ltd. The vast majority of Post Office branches – over 10,000 – are run by selected third parties within their retail premises.
The Post Office says its priority is to ensure that it can provide the services that will meet customer needs, both now and into the future, and secure the long-term viability of the organisation and the network.
There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the proposed move of Uckfield Post Office. Post Office Ltd will be working to ensure the needs of branch colleagues are met, whether that is a transfer to the new employer or redeployment in the Post Office. All staff have the legal right to transfer to the new operator if they wish.
Roger Gale, Crown Network General Manager, said: “We are committed to keeping a Post Office branch in Uckfield and to maintaining the same levels of service for our customers. We believe the best way for us to do this is to change the way we operate the branch, so if the move goes ahead it will be run by WHSmith High Street Ltd rather than by us directly.”
Subject to consultation, Uckfield Post Office will have three serving positions following its move, in line with current and predicted levels of business. These will be a mixture of one screened and two open-plan counters. Under the proposals, the relocated Uckfield Post Office would offer the same range of products and services with the addition of National Lottery.
Post Office opening hours at the proposed new location would be 09:00-17:30 Monday to Saturday and 10:00-14:00 on Sundays. This means customers would benefit from nine extra hours of service per week, including the introduction of four hours of service on Sundays.
WHSmith is one of the UK’s largest booksellers, stationers and newsagents, operating more than 1,200 stores, with an extensive reach across the UK and a strong presence on the high street. WHSmith has been successfully operating Post Offices within its stores since 2007 and currently run over 80 branches.
They have demonstrated that they will be able to successfully run the branch in Uckfield, showing they can deliver “excellent standards of customer service”, with trained staff promoting products and services in a modern environment, over extended opening hours.
Recent Post Office research shows that customer satisfaction levels are just as high for customers visiting franchise branches as for those who access Post Office services via the existing Crown network.
During the six-week public consultation, Post Office Ltd welcomes feedback on issues such as the location, the proposed premises, accessibility, or community issues that customers would like considered before a final decision is made on this proposal. The consultation will close on 25 November 2013, and the proposed month for the relocation is January 2014.
The Post Office will host a customer forum in the coming weeks, and everyone will be welcome to attend to hear more about the proposed relocation. The details of this event will be finalised soon.
During the consultation, submissions can be made through an online questionnaire at postofficeviews.co.uk, by FREEPOST Your Comments to Post Office Ltd, via email to email@example.com, via the Customer Helpline on 08457 22 33 44 or Textphone 08457 22 33 55.
Customers are asked to quote branch code 020907 in all communications.