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Criticisms over disabled access and job losses as Reading Post Office prepares to move

05 Apr 2019, 10:30

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/readi ... b-16070918

The main Post Office in the town is due to close next month

Criticisms over disabled access and the loss of skilled workers have been raised over plans to move Reading's main Post Office.

The Post Office in Market Place is due to move into WHSmith on Thursday, May 16.

Disabled campaigners, Reading East MP Matt Rodda, Crown Post Office campaigner Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and councillors, met representatives of WHSmith on Wednesday, April 3 to raise their concerns and ensure services are maintained despite the changes.

The Post Office counter will be on the first floor of the Broad Street shop, which has led to concerns over access for those with disabilities.

"There will be a loss of skilled staff, who will be dealing with vulnerable customers on benefits - it's not just about selling stamps.

"There are access issues at this store too.

"It's not just a problem for wheelchair users, there are problems for blind people with the amount of clutter they have to get through.

"But more than that, this is a public service, which should be provided as a right, not just an add on.

"Post Offices have been chronically underfunded. Customers deserve better."

"It's not just about selling stamps"

Wheelchair user Helen Bryant was unable to get to the first floor to see the new counter's location because the store's lift was undergoing repairs.

But a WHSmith spokeswoman insisted it would be fixed by Friday, May 3 before the opening.

Bob Bristo, 70, from central Reading, who is blind, needed help from Councillor Karen Rowland to come up and down the stairs.

He said: "When you come in it is hard to find out where to go, where the stairs and tills are and so on.

"It's difficult when you have no sight at all. It's especially bad when things are on sale, you have to try and get about without knocking things over.

"There should be a bell monitored by a camera, so when you ring it a member of staff and come over to help you."

Elderly wheelchair user Frank Spence, who lives in Woodley added: "Oscar Wilde said a cynic is 'a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing'.

"It feels like that's what's going on here. The Government is cutting everything without considering its value."

Mr Rodda added: "We've been asking questions about whether it's suitable for disabled people, whether it's suitable for people with sight impairment to be able to get through the very busy ground floor to get to the lift.

"We've also raised concerns over the loss of skilled jobs as the Post Office shuts."

Criticisms were levelled at the loss of skilled workers by Lynn Simpson, National Executive of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

Staff currently receive £12.40 per hour, which will be replaced with minimum wage jobs, earning between £6.15-£8.21.

Reading Post Office has 14 employees but Mrs Simpson said only one person has applied for a job at WHSmith, which constitutes a reduction of pay from their current role.

The WHSmith Post Office counter in Reading, Berkshire will have eight positions.

She added: "Because WHSmith post office jobs are minimum wage, they have problems with retention and recruitment, which has an impact on the consumer.

"They're dumbing down the jobs and dumbing down the service."

Justyn Fry, WHSmith stores field director South asked Mrs Simpson to "point anyone who wants to keep their job in our direction".

The meeting was also attended by Reading borough councillors Karen Rowland, Rose Williams and Mohammed Ayub, as part of a public consultation into the Post Office's move.

The consultation has been set up to address user concerns over disabled access, opening times and other issues.


But there is no option to retain the main Post Office, which will close on Wednesday, May 15.

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