Post Office accused of ‘walking away’ from Wirral communities

The Post Office has been accused of “walking away” from local communities as calls grow for three branches to reopen.

Wirral Council’s Conservative Party have called on the local authority to recognise “the immense distress, anguish and grievance caused by the Horizon scandal for Post Masters and Post Mistresses, their families, staff and the wider community” and request three branches on Ford Road in Upton, Saughall Bridge in Moreton, and Grove Road in Wallasey reopen. 

This is set to be debated at a meeting of all councillors on 18 March.

The motion asks councillors to write to the postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake, pointing to over 1,000 people who have signed a petition calling for the Grove Road Post Office to reopen. In Upton village, a community group has already written directly to the company and a letter sent by Labour Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood previously urged the government and the Post Office to act.

According to the Conservative motion put forward, councillors argue “the stress upon post office employees since the introduction of the Horizon IT system will have contributed to many choosing to leave their roles, accounting for some of the 7,462 branches which closed between 1997 and 2010.”

The Horizon IT scandal recently gained national attention following the release of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office. The drama depicted the stories of post office branch managers across the UK who were wrongly accused of theft and false accounting that led to more than 700 being prosecuted.

However many of the prosecutions were based on faulty evidence provided by the Post Office’s computer system called Horizon which made it look like money was missing. The motion also called on the local authority to consider whether it can take on board the recommendations put forward by an ongoing inquiry into the scandal.

In Upton, Margaret Greenwood MP has argued “the difficulty in recruiting a new sub-postmaster may have been due in part to the Horizon scandal” following its closure in 2019, adding, “In a place where there are few or no applicants to take over a post office, the government and the post office should work with local communities like Upton to find a solution.

“Post offices should be at the heart of a community and easy for people in the local area to access.”

West Kirby councillor Jenny Johnson, who put forward the motion, said the Horizon scandal “has shown this organisation to be failing at almost every level,” adding, “Now, in spite of all we have learned about the Post Office, they are failing to maintain what is left of the network in Wirral.

“The Post Office, like many banks, seems to think they can simply walk away from their responsibilities to local communities, citing excuses such as cost pressures, profit margins or technology. We will be asking Wirral Council to remind the post office that, like the banks, they have been bailed out by the taxpayer and so we demand something in return for that investment.”

In Wallasey, councillor Lesley Rennie said arguments around cost pressures were “nothing more than a smokescreen” and the Post Office had told them as recently as December 2023 “how committed they were to keeping it open,” adding, “Since then, we have heard from many residents for whom this closure has caused genuine difficulty and made life that bit more difficult.”

A Post Office spokesperson said, “Our branch network has been stable at 11,500 branches for the past decade. We have the biggest retail network in Europe and have more branches than all of the banks and building societies combined. In part, this is aided by the £50 million annual subsidy we have received from the Government for the past few years to help maintain our network.

“We fully recognise that where a branch closes it does cause inconvenience for local residents and businesses that rely on our products and services. However, it’s important to note that in the case of Grove Road Post Office which has closed due to the expiry of the lease and the withdrawal of the premises for Post Office use, Wallasey Road Post Office is a short distance away, it’s accessible by public transport and it’s open long hours seven days a week.

“In the case of Saughall Bridge, Moreton Post Office is located a short distance away, it’s accessible by public transport or on foot and it’s open long hours six days a week. Meols Post Office is also an alternative branch that customers can visit and that’s open seven days a week.

“We’re sorry that a replacement Post Office for the one previously located on Ford Road has not been found. We encourage residents in Upton to visit Moreton Post Office which is located a short distance away and open six days a week.”

Other motions put forward at the meeting call for the Household Support Fund to be made permanent, the borough’s highest honour to be award to deputy chief executive David Armstrong, and an “immediate bi-lateral ceasefire in Gaza”.

Image: Councillor Lesley Rennie outside the Grove Road Post Office, Wallasey. Credit: Wirral Conservatives

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