Rt Hon Tom Brake - Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington
House Of Commons
21 July 2014
Dear Mr Brake
The Beeches Post Office®
15 Gordon Road, Carshalton, SM5 3RG
Decision - move to new premises & branch modernisation
I’m writing to confirm that we will be proceeding with our proposal to move the above Post Office branch to Beeches Express, 1-3 Station Approach, Gordon Road, Carshalton.SM5 3RF, where it will operate as one of our new local style Post Office branches.
We received a number of comments and two petitions from customers and local representatives during the local public consultation period. The majority of feedback received focussed on access into the proposed new premises, particularly about the steps at the entrance and space inside. Comments were also made around the distance to the new location, its position near a train station, parking in the area and waiting times following the change. This feedback helped me to understand customers’ concerns and to make sure that all such information was taken into account before finalising our plans.
I am very aware of the importance a Post Office branch has in local communities, particularly to our elderly and disabled customers. I also acknowledge that any such change may cause inconvenience to some, however, it may be helpful if I explain that this branch is currently operated on our behalf by a temporary agent. This arrangement has enabled us to maintain continued access to Post Office services, but what we want for our customers in this area of Carshalton is a permanent long-term sustainable solution. We are confident that this move, which is part of our modernisation and investment plans for our network will provide this. A number of factors are taken into account when considering a new appointment including the location, access, the size of the premises and suitability of the operator. The processes we follow are established and robust and the new operator was appointed following the successful completion of our application process. The subsequent six week local public consultation then helped us to get the views of our customers and their representatives on the proposed new location before finalising our plans.
However, it’s clear that the Post Office plays an important part in the lives of customers, particularly to elderly and disabled customers and we want to make our services as accessible as possible. Our new operator fully understands they are responsible for making sure that their premises meet with all relevant legislation and I am pleased to confirm that they will be making adjustments to improve access for customers before the new Post Office opens. A new permanent ramp will be provided giving ease of access for wheelchair users and those with mobility difficulties.
Internally the new branch will be in line with Post Office specifications, making sure there is sufficient space for the new style local Post Office to operate alongside the retail offer. During the refurbishment of the premises, we will be working closely with the new operator in the internal layout and some fixtures and fittings will be re-aligned or removed to make sure there is unimpeded access into the premises. Aisles will be kept free from obstructions, with sufficient space for customers and a wheelchair to move around the shop and access the Post Office service point.
We recognise that the local style format is a different way of offering Post Office services and that some customers may have concerns about carrying out their Post Office business in a different type of environment to what they are used to. However the new local style model in no way compromises the professional service standards that we provide at all of our branches. We will also be working closely with our new operator to make sure that staffing levels are aligned to meet customer demand. All staff that will handle Post Office transactions will be fully trained to Post Office standards, which includes protecting customer confidentiality and on ways of working to help safeguard privacy in an open-plan environment.
The local format is designed around following simple processes for handling transactions that are to be as straightforward and quick as possible to enable fast and effective service. This helps to minimise queues and provide an efficient and speedy service. Customers can carry out the vast majority of transactions at a Post Office local branch - typically well over 95% of customer visits across the network are catered for. However this does mean that a very small number of transactions that are more time consuming, complex or paper based won’t be available at the new branch but these will continue to be available at Carshalton Post Office.
I acknowledge that the proposed premises are nearly 70 metres away from the current site near a train station and for some customers this may mean a slightly longer walk. In situations such as this there will always be some customers who are more inconvenienced than others and we can only apologise for this. Equally, there may be some customers for whom the proposed site is slightly closer and more convenient than at present.
While I acknowledge the comments about parking in the area, it is fair to say that this is a problem faced in many locations nationwide. When looking at service provision in an area, we do consider the needs of our customers and although the availability of parking spaces is outside the direct control of the Post Office, I have further reviewed this aspect of the proposal and I can confirm that there is roadside parking outside the shop and further along Gordon Road. I am therefore satisfied that parking at the proposed branch will continue to meet requirement of customers using the Post Office. However to further help support our customers, we have discussed parking with the new operator and he is happy to approach the local authority to see if they will consider providing a designated disabled parking bay outside the store.
The new local style Post Office will operate from a Post Office serving point located on the shop counter, enabling customers to carry out a wide range of Post Office products and services alongside retail transactions. The change also means that local residents will benefit from significantly longer opening hours, including Saturday afternoon, Sunday and longer opening times throughout the week, so customers can spread their visits across seven days a week and use our services at times that suit them better which also helps to alleviate queuing times. Further details of the new branch are provided at the end of this letter together with a list of the products and services which will be available.
I have carefully considered our original proposal and the feedback received during the public consultation period. I am confident that the new branch is suitably located and that this new way of offering Post Office services will meet customer needs, whilst helping to provide future sustainability for the branch. We already have over 1000 branches offering Post Office services in this new way and customer and operator feedback has been very positive.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to continue to provide a service from the existing premises until the new branch opens and we have been working hard to avoid a prolonged break in service.
I would like to apologise for the short notice and the temporary loss of service on this occasion. The current branch will close at 17:30 on Wednesday 23 July 2014, with the new branch opening, at Beeches Express, 1-3 Station Approach, at 13:00 on Friday 15 August 2014. During this period, customers requiring Post Office facilities may use any convenient Post Office service. Details of two alternative Post Office branch are provided below and at the end of this letter for your convenience.
- Carshalton Post Office, 29 Beacon Grove, High Street, Carshalton, SM5 3BA
- The Wrythe Post Office, 18 Green Wrythe Lane, Carshalton, SM5 2DW
You can also find a copy of this letter on our website at postofficeviews.co.uk. When entering the website you will be asked to enter the code for this branch: 17601399
This change to the Post Office network is being carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice for changes to the network, as agreed with the independent statutory consumer watchdog A full copy of the Code of Practice is available on our website at www.postoffice.co.uk/transforming-post-office, or by contacting us at the address provided at the end of this letter.
Thank you for your considering our proposal.
Regional Network Manager