When Northallerton’s post office relocated to a more central position in the town’s High Street two years ago, an advantage of the move was the additional hours the post office would be open.
The location in WH Smith meant the counters could operate on Saturday afternoons and Sundays which would be more convenient for those whose working patterns made it difficult to get to the Post Office during the week.
As I had made the case for extended weekend opening, it was very disappointing that this was lost when the Covid-19 pandemic led to the reduced hours which constituents first brought to my attention two months ago.
I’ve been in contact with both the Post Office and WH Smith, which operates the Northallerton Post Office on a franchise basis and employs the counter staff, to resolve the situation.
Last month, the Post Office told me the situation was short-term, temporary and caused by sickness among staff members and the need for their colleagues to self-isolate in line with the Government’s Covid-19 advice on limiting the spread of the virus.
I fully understand the difficulties caused to all kinds of businesses by the pandemic but in recent weeks we have seen little improvement and last Thursday the counters were at very short notice closed for an entire day. They were open again on Friday but I agree with the many constituents who contacted me that this frustrating situation had to be quickly improved.
I am pleased that my further contact with the Post Office and WH Smith chief executive Carl Cowling over the weekend has produced results.
Both parties have acknowledged that what many of us have experienced is very unsatisfactory and have apologised for the inconvenience it has caused.
But WH Smith do now have a plan which should bring about improvements. Staff will be moved from other branches when necessary, more staff will be actively recruited and should be in place by the end of this month. The extended Saturday and Sunday opening hours should be re-instated shortly afterwards.
The Post Office and WH Smith acknowledge that communication about the changes to the opening hours has been poor and have pledged to improve this aspect of their customer service should temporary changes to opening hours be necessary at any point in the future.
I am grateful for both parties’ assurances about getting things back to normal and I will, of course, continue to monitor their progress.
A date for your diaries: Saturday, November 13, 10am-4pm Appleton Wiske Village Hall. Diane and Peter Swan are organising a sale of African and Local Crafts and Jewellery with profits going to their Meserani Project – a charity which provides educational opportunities for children in Tanzania.
The Swans’ previous sale raised more than £4,000 and they hope to pass the £5,000 mark this time. One hundred per cent of the takings go directly to young people who would otherwise be denied the opportunity to go to school and university.
There will also be the opportunity to purchase their recently-published Tanzania Wildlife and Safari Guide with a foreword by Chris Packham. Again, every penny from sales goes to the charity.