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.
…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.
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.