Reassurances over Post Office

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POST office chiefs have reassured people that branches in Hartlepool won’t be affected by major changes to the system.

Nationally 70 branches out of the 11,500-strong network have been identified that could be franchised within another shop or supermarket in a bid to claw back huge losses.

The Post Office has drawn up the plans because its 370 crown branches, which make up three per cent of the network, are operating at a £40m annual loss.

Rumours had been circulating that branches in Hartlepool could be affected but Post Office officials confirm there are no town sites or branches in East Durham included within the franchise plans.

Branches in Stockton and Redcar are the nearest areas affected.

The changes have been described as the “biggest business transformation” in the history of the Post Office.

Bosses say even if no retail partner is found for the 70 branches affected they are committed to having branches and say this is not a closure programme.

They say that moving branches into retailers will help recoup losses, modernise the space, make them open plan, and there is also the potential for longer opening hours.

Officials say it is not a closure programme and there are no compulsory redundancies planned.

A Post Office spokeswoman said: “We are currently undertaking the biggest business transformation programme in the history of the Post Office.

“Our overall investment will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs.

“Crown branches are a fundamental part of our long term growth strategy and need to be brought into profit (currently operating at a £40m annual loss).

“To maintain our high street presence we will be looking to find retail partners for 70 of our branches enabling us to stay in these locations.

“The 70 branches that have the potential to be partnered with a retailer will be subject to a six week public consultation to gather the views of the local community.

“We are committed to having a Post Office branch within the area.

“The Post Office successfully works with many retail partners.

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

The spokeswoman added: “This is not a closure programme and there are no compulsory redundancies planned as part of this strategy.”