Pensioners, unions and users are celebrating after saving a post office branch from closure. Post Office chiefs have revealed they plan to expand the existing outlet at Walworth Road, after a year-long campaign to save it.
They also say it will be improved, with seven counters, extended opening hours, including Saturdays and will stay open during its refurbishment.
The threat hanging over 11 jobs for all those months would also be lifted. There will be stationery, gifts and greetings cards on sale.
The same range of products and services will be available apart from biometric enrolment service for the Home Office – where people can apply for citizenship by handing in their fingerprints and a photo.
Roger Gale, Post Office sales and trade marketing director, said that the change would help to ensure the branch is commercially viable and therefore protect Post Office services on which customers in the area depend.
He said: “The Post Office is committed to keeping our services in high streets which we know is hugely important to people. This proposal means we can continue to do that, into the future. “We are making sure we take the right action to sustain services for years to come.”
Tom White of the Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group said: “This is great news for pensioners.
“It is good to see a campaign like this succeeding because it gives us more heart for trying to save other outlets.” Residents and members of the Walworth Society protested in February last year over the threat to the branch. Labour and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) had also spoken out against the proposed closure. It is a second victory for closure campaigners – in April 2014 they were celebrating after Kennington Road post office was saved from closure. Under plans put forward by the Post Office, the branch would have merged with the one in Walworth Road.
Tony O’Brien, of the Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group, said at that time: “Pensioners rely on post offices.
“It gets them out of the house and it is now one of the only places they can actually get cash. “Many live on their own these days and they need to feel a part of the community – and post offices do that.
“Cutting back these outlets means longer journeys for them and many won’t be able to do it.” The Post Office, which has also published plans to close a branch in Sydenham, will be inviting customers and interested parties to give their comments on the proposals in a six-week public consultation that runs until August 23, 2017.
The saved Walworth post office will be run by a franchise, OM SAI Enterprises (London) Ltd, which has operated two post office branches in Buckinghamshire for a number of years.
Mr O’Brien, who is also on the national executive committee of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This is very, very good news. “We feel we have won the argument.
But it is also a surprise. “Perhaps changes in policy in the Government have had an impact and led the Post Office to take a less drastic line on closures.
“The campaign has been strong – I have been surprised by the number of stickers in windows supporting New Cross post office, for example.
“Post offices are particularly important for pensioners and the disabled – they rely on them for cashing cheques and to get out and meet people. The internet has not ended that. “I see queues outside them all the time so there is still a need.”