By Hannah Wilson
RESIDENTS are urged to have their say as Post Office Ltd has started an official consultation to close Oldham’s town centre branch and relocate it inside WH Smith’s.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, are campaigning against the proposals.
If the closure goes ahead the Post Office says most services currently offered will transfer over to the new location in the Spindles shopping centre, and there will be extended opening hours to include Sundays.
Their consultation overview adds: “This move is part of the continuing modernisation of our branch network.
“We believe the most effective way to secure the long-term viability of Post Office services in Oldham is through a carefully selected retail partner, and we are confident that our proposal is the best way of safeguarding services for the community for years to come.
“The vast majority of our 11,500 Post Office branches, large and small, are successfully operated in this way with retail partners and we believe this is the best approach to keeping Post Offices in main shopping locations and at the heart of communities where they play in an important role in local economies.”
However, Mrs Abrahams said: “I’m extremely concerned about many aspects of the post office moving, not least the welfare of staff and the downgrading of services, but also the many people with mobility issues who will be affected.
“During a recent debate on the subject in Westminster the government minister overseeing the process was unwilling to answer questions about whether she had discussed the impact of the franchising of the post offices on people with mobility issues with her Department of Work and Pensions colleagues.
“Oldham, like many other northern towns, has lost many local services as a result of the Government’s austerity measures and this just looks like another example of them being happy to oversee more cuts with no concern about the effect on the people who use the service.”
The MPs have taken to social media to encourage people to sign their petition against the closure and save the “vital” branch.
They posted: “We need people in our town to respond to the consultation objecting to this damaging move. It is vital to protect this public service for our High Street.
“If we don’t show Post Office Ltd and the government the strength of feeling we won’t save it and it will close in June this year.”
To respond to the formal consultation, go online before February 27: https://www.postofficeviews.co.uk/national-consultation-team/oldham-ol1-3hp-005424/
To sign the online petition signed by the MPs go online: https://www.change.org/p/i-ve-signed-to-save-save-oldham-post-office