Blackness Post Office – automated door concern

Residents have brought to my attention concerns that the automated front door at Blackness Post Office has not been working.
 
The electronic door is very helpful for people with mobility difficulties and those using wheelchairs to get into the Post Office, so I wrote to Post Office Limited about the concern raised.
 
I have received the following helpful response from the External Affairs Manager at Post Office Limited :
 
“I have made enquiries about the automatic door mechanism at Blackness Road Post Office.  … The premises and door are the responsibility of the shop owner and  it is up to each individual retailer whether or not  they have an automatic door but, in order that the requirements of the Equality Act are met, Post Office ask that the entrance door, access to the counter and turning spaces for a wheelchair meet our minimum specifications.
 
In this case,  the agent at Blackness Road has advised that since he took over the door has not functioned automatically but he will look into the possibility of having the mechanism repaired.  He has also advised that they are always on hand and happy to help any customer who requires assistance.”
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Post Office memorial shrine time capsule opened to the public

From the Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee :
 
This Thursday the Great War Dundee partnership will be giving the public the first chance to explore the contents of a unique WW1 time capsule.
 
Many of you will have seen the media coverage when we opened the time capsule created by Post Office workers in Dundee at the end of the Great War. The creators of the shrine had instructed that it should be opened by the Postmaster in the presence of the Lord Provost on 4 August 2014.    The event took place in City Chambers in front of an invited audience including Post Office and Royal Mail staff and relatives of postal workers of the time, and since then a selection of its contents have been on display at The McManus: Dundee’s Museum & Art Gallery.
 
Two public sessions have now been organised as part of the Great War Dundee partnership’s programme of events, allowing a detailed look at some of the letters, photographs and documents contained in the shrine. Invited guests will be reading extracts from the letters, which include letters sent home by soldiers at the front, a letter from the Lord Provost of 1921 to his 2014 successor, and the fascinating glimpse of life at the end of the war provided by telegraphist Annie K Lamont. University museum curator Matthew Jarron will be introducing the contents, and historians Billy Kenefick and Derek Patrick will also be on hand to explain the historical context and answer questions.
 
The two sessions will take place at the McManus Collections Unit in Barrack Street on Thursday 9th October and Thursday 16th October between 10-12pm. The sessions are free but booking is essential. Call McManus Reception on 01382 307200 to book. 
 
The Great War Dundee partnership includes community leaders, academics, historians, museum curators, archivists, librarians, artists, media representatives, education specialists and members of the public. Among the institutions and groups represented are Dundee City Council (including its Archives Service and Education department), Leisure & Culture Dundee (which includes Dundee Library and Information Service and The McManus), the University of Dundee (including its archives, museums, School of Humanities, Botanic Garden and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design), the Unicorn Preservation Society, Dundee Heritage Trust, DC Thomson & Co Ltd, The Black Watch Museum & Castle and the Western Front Association (Tayside Branch).

Request for temporary Perth Road Post Office arrangements : an update

Further to the recent request made by myself and the City Council’s Chief Executive to Post Office Limited about the possibility of temporary facility in Perth Road during the September closure period when modernisation work is being carried out at the Perth Road Post Office Branch, I spoke with the Post Office’s Stakeholder Manager for Scotland last Friday about this and was advised yesterday as follows :

Thank you for your time on the phone on Friday.

I appreciate your concerns regarding Perth Road Post Office closure for refurbishment and would like to assure you that we have made every effort to keep the closure period at Perth Road to an absolute minimum considering the amount of refurbishment work to be carried out.  As discussed, there are alternative Post Office branches which can be accessed within a reasonable distance of Perth Road branch therefore in this case a temporary service would not be a possibility.  A temporary service is normally set up when there is to be a prolonged closure of a branch or if the nearest alternative branch is a considerable distance away and takes quite some time to implement.

The planned refurbishments will result in a much improved customer experience with longer opening hours and a new more modern branch. The aim of our modernisation programme is to enable the Post Office to invest in and ensure the long term sustainability of the current branch network and I am sure this investment and subsequent improvement in Perth Rd branch will be welcomed by our customers.

We do understand that there may be some elderly or less able customers who may be more inconvenienced than others while the branch is closed and we apologise for any inconvenience which may be experienced however we do notify customers in advance of the closure in order to allow them to make alternative arrangements during this period.

The Post Office Website www.postoffice.co.uk provides information on products and services which may be helpful for customers.

I have responded as follows :

…whilst the modernisation is excellent news, it is disappointing that there will be no temporary service given the number of elderly people who will find the distance to alternative Post Offices a challenge.   

The City Council did provide a temporary library service in a nearby church hall when a similar situation affected the local library last year and its is therefore disappointing that Post Office Limited could not consider this.

Request for temporary Perth Road Post Office arrangements

Further to the good news of the extensive refurbishment and modernisation of Perth Road Post Office, both the Dundee City Council Chief Executive David Dorward and I have written to Post Office limited to request they consider a temporary facility during the September closure period when work is being carried out.
 
There are many elderly and infirm residents nearby including folk from four sheltered housing complexes for whom a visit to Blackness Road or Meadowside – the alternative Post Offices cited by Post Office Limited – would be a real challenge.   
 
During the Blackness Library refurbishment last year, the City Council had a temporary arrangement at Logie St John’s (Cross) Church.   There are actually several possible sites for a limited temporary Post Office service and I would like Post Office Limited to consider this for the closure period of 8th to 19th September.
 
Mr Dorward’s letter to Post Office Limited indicates :
 
‘The Council welcomes your plans to modernise and extend the opening hours of the post office  branch at Perth Road.
 
However, one of our elected members has suggested that it would be good if you could consider providing a temporary limited facility in the area while the branch is closed for refurbishment. 
 
There are many elderly and infirm residents nearby, including the residents of 4 sheltered housing complexes, for whom a visit to the Blackness Road or Meadowside branches would be a real challenge.  There would have been a closer alternative, but the branch at Nethergate was closed in the last round of post office closures.’
 
I am to be discussing the request further with Post Office Limited’s Senior Stakeholder Manager  for the area next week.

Welcome news for Perth Road Post Office

I have welcomed news of a substantial refurbishment by Post Office Limited of the Perth Road Post Office that will result in a new, ultra modern design and further welcomed news that the refurbished Post Office in Perth Road will open on Saturday afternoons in future, in addition to its current opening days and times.
 
I am very pleased at the investment in Perth Road Post Office which confirms its great performance and service to the community.    The additional opening hours on Saturday are also a welcome improvement, particularly for working families who can struggle to get to the Post Office on weekdays.    
 
Given the recent unfortunate closure of the Perth Road Royal Bank of Scotland Branch, the Post Office is now available for RBS personal customers for many banking transactions in addition to post office transactions, so improving the Post Office Branch is a very positive move.
 
The Perth Road Post Office will be closed for refurbishment from 8th September at noon, with the newly refurbished Post Office reopening at 1pm on Friday 19th September.    During the refurbishment, the Blackness Road Post Office will be open for Perth Road customers, as will the main Dundee Post Office in Meadowside.

Blackness Post Office – an update

I have expressed the hope that a new sub-postmaster will come forward to take over the Blackness Road Post Office as, thus far, Post Office Limited has indicated there has been no formal interest in taking over the post office.  This follows the announcement in May that the current sub-postmaster, Mr Abdul Bhimani, has indicated a wish to retire.
 
Post Office Limited has indicated to me :
 
“I have been advised that the Blackness Road branch is currently being advertised as a Post Office Local.    This is because the existing Sub-postmaster has indicated that he wishes to leave the business under our Network Transformation Programme.    The Sub-postmaster has not resigned and will remain in post until the position is filled.     I can also confirm that to date there has currently not been any interest shown in this position.    Unfortunately, I am not in a position to confirm if the service will remain in the Blackness Road premises if changes were to be made.”
 
I understand that one local property developer had given some thought to taking over the service, possibly from a new location in the area.     I am extremely anxious that a new sub-postmaster is found to ensure that there is still a Blackness Post Office after Mr Bhimani retires.   This is a very well-used post office and an important facility in the Blackness area.

Jobcentre Plus “outreach” proposal

The suggestion by Danny Alexander MP that public buildings such as libraries should be considered for use as outreach services for Jobcentre Plus appears to me to make a whole lot of sense. (See http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/Library-39outreach39-proposal-for-Jobcentres.4840598.jp to read the story in today’s Scotsman).

 

He points out that there is no reason that Jobcentre Plus services cannot be provided in places such as community centres and council buildings.

 

The 2004 Government Spending Review announced an efficiency savings programme which planned to reduce the numbers of Jobcentre Plus staff by around 14 per cent and lead to dramatic changes in the way Jobcentre Plus delivered its services

The new standard operating model for claiming benefits introduced the telephone as the main route for applying for and contacting Jobcentre Plus about benefit claims. Benefit processing was centralised into a smaller number of large processing centres, resulting in reduced face to face service for claimants in local offices. Citizens Advice’s evidence on the new system for claiming benefits from Jobcentre Plus said,

 

“The most vulnerable claimants, homeless people and those with mental health, learning or other disabilities have suffered the worst as local office support has decreased and alternatives to phone contact have been refused.” (See http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/evidence_reports/er_benefitsandtaxcredits/er_not_getting_through to view the full report).

 

Although, in November, the government decided to abandon plans to close more Jobcentre Plus offices, the “outreach” proposal would help to plug gaps in the Jobcentre Plus network – it should be remembered that the ‘rationalisation programme’ was handled in a haphazard ill-conceived fashion.

 

In my view, consideration should also be given to having some Jobcentre Plus services and advice surgeries at suitable local Post Offices. During the unsuccessful campaign to try to save four Dundee Post Offices last year, many of us made the point that having additional services at local Post Offices would help secure their future. Having some Jobcentre Plus services at sub post offices would not only achieve this, but would also make job centre services more readily available and plug some of the gaps in the service.