Chorley post office closure scandal sparks union anger


Friday 13th November 2020

Shocking news that a franchised Post Office is to be shut down by WH Smith less than two years after the retailer took it over has provoked widespread condemnation from political leaders, business owners and members of the affected community.

Residents of Chorley in Lancashire are now facing the complete loss of vital services, in a shocking betrayal of the promises made to them when their former Crown Post Office was franchised to the town’s WH Smith in February 2019.

But while WH Smith plans to shut up shop, the former Crown Post Office building in the town’s Cleveland Street remains empty.

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey has demanded that Chorley post office services be immediately returned to the Crown building in an urgent letter to Post Office chief executive Nick Read.

In the letter, Andy describes the behaviour of WH Smith as ‘nothing short of a scandal’ and demands to know why the failing retailer was handed this service when they had no long-term commitment to it.

“It’s yet another outrage and yet another example of shockingly bad management,” Andy told CWU News today.

“The good people of Chorley were promised that the relocation would not adversely affect services and they were promised that WH Smith would uphold the very highest standards.

“But yet again we’ve seen that promises from senior Post Office management mean absolutely nothing in the cold light of day.”

Andy has demanded answers to several key questions surrounding this affair, specifically asking why this franchise was allowed to happen when the existing WH Smith shop in Chorley was already nearing the end of its lease.

“I’ve asked Mr Read whether the Post Office knew this – in which case they’ve deliberately withheld crucial information from the public – or whether this information was kept from the Post Office by WH Smith when they put in their bid to take over the Chorley Crown – in which case it is WH Smith who are guilty of misleading people.

“Either way, the people have been given false promises and someone must be held accountable,” insisted Andy.

The CWU has long held the view that the franchising of Crown Post Offices is wrong in principle and should be halted and reversed. And the union has also consistently criticised the ‘public consultations’ which have preceded these franchising decisions as being wholly inadequate and profoundly flawed processes.

“What’s happened in Chorley is strikingly similar to what’s happened all over the UK during the past few years,” Andy continued. “Crown Office after Crown Office has been handed to private retailers, who have then proved utterly incapable of delivering the high-class service that the public need and deserve.

“Then they’ve cut costs and standards even further in their desperation to turn a profit and then they cut and run – leaving communities, local businesses and high streets without these essential services.

“And, according to press reports such as Sarah Butler’s article for The Guardian newspaper yesterday WH Smith plans to close more high-street stores and so the Chorley scandal is likely to be repeated elsewhere.

“It’s got to stop – this union will continue the fight against franchising and for a return to proper Crown Post Office provision.”

The union has also written to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley and also Speaker of the House of Commons, to enlist his support for the CWU proposal to re-open the Crown.