Stamp out PO downgrade!

010212 Torphicen post office.
010212 Torphicen post office.

POST Office services could be under threat in Torphichen but villagers are determined to fight against proposed changes.

The PO and village shop at 1 The Square was ‘‘temporarily’’ closed by Post Office Ltd in November last year after the sub-postmaster resigned.

Weeks later at a public meeting local business-woman Oonagh Shackleton, owner of Glendale Knitwear in Whitburn, proposed buying the business and taking over as sub-postmistress, to the delight of the community.

But, since then, villagers have become concerned as they believe Post Office Ltd want to change the sub-post office into a Post Office Local, which means a salary will not be paid to the shop and the range of services will be reduced for the 600 villagers.

John McKenzie of Greenside said: “Renovations needed to be done to the building and Oonagh was told the PO could become a PO Local - like the service in Linlithgow Bridge.

“This means they will not pay a sub-postmistress salary and they will not provide a full service. They shouldn’t be able to do this. For people like my mother, who is 80, the PO is everything - it came as a terrible shock.”

PO Local offers a core range of PO services over the shop counter, such as first and second class mail, stamps and benefits payments. But it would not include insurance, foreign currency, and security for payments such as pensions would come out of the owner’s pocket.

Local MP Michael Connarty says a change from sub-post office to a PO Local would be a downgrade.

He added: “The Post Office is required to inform the community, representatives, and the local authority if they have any proposals to change the shop. They have not consulted anyone.

‘‘There is no justification for closing it as a sub-post office, and they are breaking their own code of procedure. What they are trying to do here is unacceptable.”

But this week Jennifer Bird, external relations manager at Royal Mail Group, said discussions were continuing.

She said: “Post Office Ltd is in discussions with an interested party and continues to review the options available to provide a service to Torphichen.

‘‘We remain committed to doing all that we can to restore access to our services and we are working hard to do so.

‘‘Once we have a way forward, we will make sure that customers and their local representatives are informed of our plans.”

Owner Oonagh Shackleton, of St John’s House, Manse Road, said she remains impartial and will run the shop no matter what the Post Office decides.

She said: “When I first made inquiries about buying the shop the PO said they were thinking of making changes but I decided to buy the premises regardless.

‘‘So far nothing has been confirmed, but the village needs a PO and I am willing to offer either a sub-post office or a PO Local.”

She confirmed that as a PO Local the salary for sub-postmistress at £12-15,000 would not be paid, and they would only provide a small commission for services, but she added the business remained viable and would re-open next week. As the Journal and Gazette went to press a public meeting was to be held last night (Thursday). For the latest go to www. torphichenshop.co.uk