‘Uncertain’ future for town post office

THE future of a Worthing post office is in doubt as the Government pushes for convenience-store style branches.

Yvonne Largue, 50, bought the Lyndhurst Road franchise seven years ago, and says she is only just keeping her head above water.

Now she must complete a survey to determine whether the post office is suitable to be turned into a ‘local’ post office – or face eviction.

With the help of an investment from the Government, Post Office Limited will combine post offices and retail service in 6,000 branches.

But Mrs Largue, who employs two full-time staff, says that becoming a ‘local’ post office will bring no benefit to her.

“Being a local means running the post office and the shop as one business, as the Post Office Limited say that will bring in more money by increasing productivity,” she said. “But we have an open plan post office anyway so we would not benefit from the changes in any way, shape or form.”

If the post office is accepted to become a local, Mrs Largue will lose her fixed core tier payment, which is currently £916 per month. Her remuneration as a subpostmaster would also become variable.

“If I opt to get out instead of signing the new conditions, the Post Office Limited will pay me somewhere between £34,000 and £49,000,” she said.

“But I have a lease here for another eight years which is £67,000 and two staff who I would have to make redundant.

“It is also not guaranteed that I will be accepted as a local store, even if I applied for it. Everything is uncertain.

“I paid £8,000 for the franchise of the post office then spent more money doing it up to meet the specifications – this is the first year that I have finished paying the loan off and am making money.

“This just seems like a catch 22 situation for me. They are calling it a choice but it is not really.”

Mrs Largue said the community would suffer if the post office closed.

She said: “My customers are going loopy over what might happen and many have emailed local councillors.

“It would be a big loss for the community and we fought long and hard to get this post office re-opened to face losing it again. If I have to go bankrupt because of this, or it is decided that I have not got enough retail to support a local, I do not know what I will do.

“It is a lot to get your head around especially as I put aside the initial letter as it was our busiest period with Christmas. I have realised now that it is more serious than I initially thought. I could lose everything.”

Worthing Borough Councillor Roger Oakley said: “A post office is a community facility and it is very important, particularly for the vulnerable members of the community who perhaps cannot travel very far. If we were to lose the post office in Lyndhurst Road the only alternative would be to go to Chapel Road and I can fully understand why people are asking questions and are concerned.”