The Post Office has confirmed it will be closing its biggest Bristol branch, despite a groundswell of opposition to the proposals.
Disability campaigners, unions, small business owners and mayor Marvin Rees have all slammed plans to relocate the important public asset into the WHSmith store in The Galleries, arguing the move will adversely affect accessibility, quality of service and advice for customers.
There are also 22 people employed at the branch now facing an uncertain future.
But the Post Office claims the measure is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the service and says it is confident the new location will continue to meet customer needs and deliver an excellent service.
The move is part of sweeping changes across the country and more than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for post offices to be saved.
Speaking out against the proposed closure in November, Rob Wotherspoon, Communications Workers Union branch secretary said: “The Galleries post office is an essential part of the local economy. It’s a valuable asset in Bristol and is relied upon by local residents and businesses, as well as people who collect their pensions and benefits here.
“Discussion of decently paid employees being replaced by people on the minimum wage is off the cards. This is an arrogant and insulting approach that Post Office users will rightly see as a sham.”
In a letter confirming the closure following a public consultation, Roger Gale, the company’s network and sales director, said: “After careful consideration of the feedback received, we remain confident that the new branch will continue to meet customer needs and deliver an excellent service, whilst securing the long-term viability of Post Office services in Bristol.”
He added: “The Post Office is committed to keeping our services at the heart of communities which we know is hugely important to people. This change 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.”
The current branch is due to close at 5.30pm on March 13, with the new branch opening at 9am the next day in WHSmith.
Responding to the news, James Cox, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, said: “This is a real let down for local people. The decision to close and downsize made no sense from the start and it’s frustrating that the Post Office has essentially said ‘we’ve listened, but we’re ignoring you’.
“This isn’t a failing branch, it’s the most popular in Bristol. Downgrading the branch means Bristolians will get a downgraded service.”
Following relocation, there will be eight serving positions and seven self-service machines inside WHSmith.
The post office will also have slightly extended opening hours, with services available from 9am to 5.30pm Monday – Saturday and 11am to 3pm on Sundays.