Thursday, 20 September 2018

Village post office to shut

Village post office to shut

THE post office in Nettlebed will close on February 12.

Malthurst, which runs the post office in the Spar shop at the BP petrol station in Port Hill, had hoped to keep the counter open until the Post Office had found an alternative premises in the village or set up a mobile service.

But it has been unable to reach an agreement with the Post Office.

In a letter to Nettlebed Parish Council, chief executive Dr Karen Dickens said: “We understand how important this service is to the local community and we are therefore willing to continue providing Post Office services, pending certain conditions are met by the Post Office, until a mobile service is introduced.”

However, the Post Office said continuing to run the branch would not be possible due to the way Malthurst operated the service.

A spokeswoman said: “We contacted Malthurst to see if they would be willing to continue to operate the branch until a new mobile post office was operating in the area.

“Unfortunately, they have advised that this wouldn’t be possible under the current way they operate the branch so unfortunately there will be a temporary closure of the service from February 12. We are working hard to keep any period of closure to a minimum.”

Malthurst originally announced the closure in December, saying the counter was no longer economically viable. It took over the service more than two years ago when the post office moved from the church hall in High Street. The move saw the counter extend its opening times by 66 hours a week so that it opened from 6am to 10pm every day.

Dr Dickens said: “All the staff who deal with Post Office transactions must complete training and we have a dedicated member of staff for busy periods, which incurs a significant cost.

“We receive a monthly subsidy from the Post Office but this does not cover the operating cost of the services at Nettlebed.

“We did not take the decision to close the post office counter lightly and we fully understand that the local community will be disappointed that they will no longer be able to access Post Office services at their local store.”

Dr Dickens said the cost of providing the services “vastly outweighs” the income generated.

She added: “Reducing the opening hours would not have a significant impact on this as it was not so much the length of opening hours but that we have to provide additional staff during busy periods.

“There is also a number of security concerns relating to Post Office operating procedures.” Henley MP John Howell, who met representatives of the Post Office last month, said: “I am keeping up the pressure on this and have asked the Post Office to give me an indication of timescale and to keep me updated on progress.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, the village’s representative on the South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I don’t know why the post office has to be open the whole time the petrol station is. I am sure 9am to 3pm would be all right. 

“There seems to be a swathe of closures in the area and the communities are going to be hit in one way or another. I’m not sure a mobile post office being in the village for an hour is the right way going forward. i’m quite worried we could end up with nothing.”

He said mobile post office services were being proposed for stoke Row and Checkendon.

The nearest post offices are in Henley and Sonning Common.

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