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Campaign launched to save Swiss Cottage post office from closure

PUBLISHED: 19:11 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:11 14 February 2013

Cllr Johnny Bucknall, Ken Ledster, Patrick Leray, Cllr Gio Spinelli outside the Post Office on Fichley Road Swiss Cottage. Pictue: Polly Hancock

Cllr Johnny Bucknall, Ken Ledster, Patrick Leray, Cllr Gio Spinelli outside the Post Office on Fichley Road Swiss Cottage. Pictue: Polly Hancock

Archant

A campaign has been launched to save Swiss Cottage post office which could close as part of plans to claw back £40million-a-year of losses.

Post Office bosses want to close the branch in Finchley Road and replace it with a franchised post office based in another shop.

The branch is one of 70 crown branches – owned and run directly by the Post Office – that are earmarked for replacement.

But a petition has been launched as campaigners begin the fight to keep a post office in Finchley Road.

Patrick Leray, 43, of Compayne Gardens, West Hampstead, who started the petition, said: “It’s an important facility for residents in our area. Closing this post office would be a big loss. I hope the community will fight to keep this post office open.”

Ken Ledster, 44, also of Compayne Gardens, added: “It is used by the elderly picking up their pensions, people collecting their benefits and it’s one of the only places locally you can get your tax for your car.

“It’s already a shop, there’s printers and stationary being sold in there. It doesn’t need to be turned into a shop.”

The Post Office has drawn up the plans because its 370 crown branches, which make up three per cent of the 11,500-strong network, are currently operating at a £40million-a-year loss. It has identified 70 branches that could be franchised to a local shop or supermarket.

Bosses say this will not only help recoup losses but will enable post office services to be provided in a more modern environment with longer opening hours.

A Post Office spokeswoman said: “The 70 branches that have the potential to be partnered with a retailer will be subject to a six - week public consultation.

“We already have over 3,000 branches across the UK where customers are accessing services in this way.

“If no retail partner is found, we are still committed to having a Crown Post Office within the area. This is not a closure programme and there are no compulsory redundancies planned.”

Camden Council has announced that it has set aside £250,000 in next year’s budget to support 17 post offices in the borough, which will offer council front counter services such as paying parking fines.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, said: “We will listen to local people and if we can step in and help we will. We just need to find out what the post office’s real intentions are.”

A post office that opened in Budgens in Belsize Park has also been hailed as a successful example of the franchised model.

Swiss Cottage councillor Roger Freeman, said: “It’s ridiculous to think that there will be no post office in Finchley Road.

“It’s clear that there’s not enough room in the present post office facility for there to be a commercial premises.

“Although it remains to be seen whether they could be a repeat of the successful Budgens experience in Belsize Park, where a post office goes into a shop’s spare space.”

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