Campaigners ‘devastated’ after losing battle for Crouch End post office

The Post Office has announced plans following the Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd take over of C

The Post Office has announced plans following the Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd take over of Crouch End Post Office. Picture: GARY WATT - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are ‘devastated’ after losing their fight to stop a post office service being handed over to a private firm.

In August the Post Office's Stuart Taylor received letters pledging to boycott a proposed franchise

In August the Post Office's Stuart Taylor received letters pledging to boycott a proposed franchise at Crouch End Post Office from Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West along with councillor Adam Jogee and Communications Workers Union rep Clive Tickner. Picture: JON KING - Credit: Archant

In July the Post Office announced it planned to spin off branches in Crouch End and Muswell Hill after entering into partnership with stationery firm Universal Office Equipment (UOE).

Angry customers reacted by calling for a boycott of UOE products and services with 2,500 people signing a petition backing a call to reject the plans fearing job losses and a poor level of service would result.

But in an announcement last Wednesday the Post Office confirmed UOE – which manages three offices in the capital – would run the Crouch End branch in Topsfield Road.

Steve Jones, national executive member of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which campaigned with residents and represents Post Office employees, said: “This is devastating news, the community who campaigned tirelessly are outraged.

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“The only good thing that can be said about the announcement is that the absolute misery the workforce has faced for the best part of two years whilst they’ve been waiting for the axe to drop is finally over.”

The union member alleged UOE, which refuses to recognise the CWU, would be happy for existing staff to take redundancy paid for with public money (the Post Office is state owned) and re-recruit them on “poverty pay”.

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A six week public consultation which ended last month was attacked as undemocratic for not taking the community’s wishes to keep the office out of private hands into account.

Mr Jones added: “The Post Office has clearly lost the plot. They are destroying what was a once great public service.”

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West, who joined the campaign, said: “Many constituents are concerned about the franchising of the Crown Post Office, which is why I wrote to the Government to clarify that jobs would not be lost or downgraded. In these tough times, with the cost of living rising and wages not keeping up, it’s vital that work pays.”

A PO spokeswoman said: “The consultation was focused on Post Office’s continuing provision of services in the heart of Crouch End and the feedback included views which welcomed the branch remaining at its current site, with the same services and with significantly increased opening hours including Sunday opening. We carefully considered all views provided before reaching a decision.

“We are taking the utmost care with our staff as we make vital changes to improve the availability of our services for customers, keep our branches on high streets and reduce reliance on taxpayers. We discuss preferences and options with people affected and these can include redeployment, voluntary settlements or transferring to the new operator in line with legislation.

“The vast majority of our 11,600 branches are run on a franchise or agency basis – it’s a model which works – and the franchisee for Crouch End already operates successful Post Offices in North London. The changes in Crouch End will ensure the branch is sustainable, with services safeguarded for years to come,” she added.

The new branch will include five counters with opening hours of 8.30am – 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9am - 6pm on Wednesdays; 9am – 5.30pm on Saturdays and 12pm – 4pm on Sundays.

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