Hove MP calls Post Office consultation ‘sham’

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove
Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, used a debate in Parliament on Crown Post Offices last week to condemn the ‘sham consultation’ that preceded the closing down of a Hove Crown Post Office.

He said Post Office bosses claimed that the number of customers using the Western Road Crown Office had declined in recent years, and said the branch was no longer ‘commercially sustainable’.

After a public consultation over its viability, the Crown Post Office closed.

One year later, the Post Office has installed a new branch in the Western Road newsagent, just feet away from where the Crown Office they closed had been.

Mr Kyle said this raised questions over the Post Office’s stated reasons that the original Crown Office had been ‘commercially unviable’.

But the Post Office said it needed to adapt, and the new Post Office was more financially sustainable.

Speaking in the Westminster Hall debate, Peter Kyle MP said: “I have absolutely no doubt that I was misled, that the community I represent was misled and — worst of all — that the customers who used and depended on that post office were misled and the staff who had given a career and indeed a lifetime in work to that post office branch were misled.

“The Post Office staff’s jobs disappeared and the jobs that have been created in their place have no pension liability and no guarantee that they would have the standards that people who work long-term in the Post Office can expect. And those workers were no longer part of the Post Office family.

“We have a Prime Minister who stood on the steps of Downing Street and said she was going to maintain those sorts of rights and tackle injustices. The Post Office is one of her companies; it is an organisation that she runs. However, she has allowed it to dwindle, to be stripped of assets and to be taken away from our high streets, and replaced with something that has less value, that makes less of a contribution to our communities, and that offers less stability and value in the workplace to the people who work for it.”

The MP then called on the Business Minister responsible for postal affairs, Kelly Tolhurst MP, to intervene: “I say to the Minister directly that I understand that she has said that it is not her job to meddle with the running of the Post Office. However, in times such as this, I and my community expect her to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in, because if branches are being taken from our high streets, and MPs and our communities are being misled, we are their elected officials, she is speaking on behalf of the Government and we expect her to act.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We do not make any changes lightly, but the Post Office is not immune to the pressures facing all retailers on the high street and we do have to adapt to ensure that we continue to serve communities – not just now, but in the future too.

“When we hold a consultation, all of the feedback we collect is carefully considered and absolutely shapes our final decision.

“The new Post Office branch in Hove is a different model from a directly managed or Crown branch; it is run by an independent retailer. This brings the benefits of shared overheads and footfall, meaning the branch is financially sustainable, and also means the branch is open for longer – seven days a week, from early until late – making it more convenient for our customers to access our services.”