Monday, 30 November 2020

Villagers angry at revamp of post office inside shop

THE revamped post office in Sonning Common is inadequate, according to residents.

THE revamped post office in Sonning Common is inadequate, according to residents.

The facility inside the One Stop shop in Wood Lane was refurbished and given a new layout as part of a national modernisation programme.

The new “Local” post office was designed to enable customers to use more post office services at the retail counter.

But it came under fire at the annual parish meeting.

Diana Pearman, of Kennylands Road, said she went to post a parcel and was turned away twice because there were no staff present who could accept it.

“I was surprised because that’s not how it was marketed,” she said. “The person there said they weren’t very well trained and were being paid the minimum wage.”

Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, of Woodlands Road, said she went into the shop to have a parcel weighed at 4.35pm one day and found the post office closed. She said: “The young man behind the counter said it wouldn’t be open for 20 minutes because he had all the parcels to sort.

“There was another member of staff there who wasn’t busy. I told him I simply needed it weighed but he wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand for 20 minutes and there’s nowhere to sit so I missed the post.”

Mrs Phillips-Tilbury, who is a parish councillor, said that for many years the One Stop shop held the key to the village hall but this stopped when the post office was refurbished and the staff refused to do it any more.

She said: “We’ve had to make other arrangements but it seems a shame that the new post office wouldn’t do that. We expect the post office to be part of the community.”

Laura Tarling, senior Post Office stakeholder manager, said the changes were made to reduce costs but also to make services more relevant to customer’s needs, including longer opening times.

“Now customers don’t feel at noon on a Saturday that they have to go down to the post office before it closes and then find there’s a really long queue because it’s the only time people can go,” she said.

Ms Tarling said the intention was to make the post office part of the retail environment and streamlining staff into both roles would help achieve this.

At least one member of staff who was trained by the Post Office should be on duty at any one time. The Post Office would provide staff training if requested but pay was the responsibility of One Stop, she said.

John Pearman, of Kennylands Road, said: “It seems to me that you’ve left it to them to decide how to run it. You’ve stepped back and said it’s open all hours, has everything it needs but it’s all over to One Stop.

“The two qualified and exceptional post office staff we had in the old shop are no longer there. I bet they’ve gone because they get paid peanuts and wouldn’t take the reduction in salary they were being offered.”

Ms Tarling said the Post Office had a contract with the shop which covered opening hours and customer service but there were no pay requirements other than that staff were paid at least minimum wage. Tom Fort, of Woodlands Road, said: “Since the staff operating our post office aren’t employed by you, then the assurances you give us aren’t worth a great deal. The experience of many people is that One Stop’s ability to listen is non-existent.”

A One Stop spokeswoman said: “Our customers tell us they like the convenience of post office services in One Stop shops.

“All our colleagues undergo thorough training with the support of the Post Office to ensure they provide the best possible service.”

She said the company would seek to resolve the issues raised.

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