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Crunch meeting to solve Northallerton Post Office closures

A MEETING has been called between a town’s MP and senior officials at both the Post Office and WH Smith in an effort to put an end to sudden closures and inconsistent opening hours at a key branch.

WH Smith has apologised to its customers and the wider community for the inconsistent service at Northallerton Post Office after being contacted by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak about a sudden temporary closure of the counters just before Christmas.

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Post Office services are hosted on a franchise basis by WH Smith in its High Street branch, and assurances had previously been given by both organisations about the efforts they were making to recruit enough staff to operate effectively.

Mr Sunak is to meet WH Smith’s chief executive, the company’s national retail director and also a senior representative of the Post Office at the branch later this month to discuss the situation.

“I have received a number of assurances from both WH Smith and the Post Office in recent months about the service and how it will improve but problems have continued,” said Mr Sunak.

“This is very frustrating for all who rely on using the Post Office in Northallerton. I look forward to hearing their proposals to resolve the situation, and the two partners providing a consistent and reliable service to their customers.”

Problems at the branch surfaced at the end of August last year when a number of staff were required to self-isolate because of Covid-19. Hours were reduced and in October the branch was closed for a day at short notice.

In the closure before Christmas, the counters shut after a staff member suddenly became unwell. Further unexpected staff absences led to additional closures although the counters did re-open after the Christmas break with staff being drafted in from other WH Smith-run Post Offices in the region.

A spokeswoman for WH Smith said: “We sincerely apologise to our customers and local community in Northallerton for the impact to our opening hours and that the consistent service we are committed to providing has fallen short.

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“We are currently working hard to recruit for the existing vacancies in the branch. During our peak trading period in the lead up to Christmas, our branches were exceptionally busy dealing with very high volumes of mail, so we are mindful of the increased pressures and customer demands that our Post Office colleagues are experiencing.

“Our area manager is visiting the Northallerton store team regularly to ensure the team is well supported.”

Northallerton county and district Cllr Caroline Dickinson said there needed to be a big improvement in the service.

She added: “With bank branch closures, the Post Office is becoming even more important for residents and businesses.

“The least they deserve is a consistent, reliable, well-staffed service.

“I welcome the meeting Mr Sunak is arranging with WH Smith and the Post Office and I hope it will lead to a successful resolution.”

 

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