Residents asked views on post office changes

Oxford Mail: The Balfour Road post office The Balfour Road post office

BOTH of Blackbird Leys’ post offices are facing refurbishment under new plans, meaning they will have fewer services and longer opening hours.

The two post offices are housed in Martin’s newsagent’s shops on Blackbird Leys Road and Balfour Road.

The firm said the change – which is subject to consultation – is part of a £640m Government scheme to modernise post offices nationally.

Changes would only be made with the current subpostmaster's agreement, officials say.

If the changes go ahead, both post offices would close for three days in June.

The Post Office said the branches will close at different times, so one will always be open.

The current branches would become brand-new local branches, combining Post Office services with retail transactions.

Post Office spokeswoman Kathryn Hollingsworth said: “We’re investing in our branches to make them more modern and convenient for our customers with longer opening hours and brighter environments.

“The subpostmasters at both Blackbird Leys post office and Balfour Road post office are proposing to change their branches to the new ‘local’ model.

“This would mean Post Office services being offered from a till on the retail counter instead of the separate screened counters.”

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Opening hours would be extended to match those of the Martin’s stores, meaning services would be available until later in the evenings during the week, and on Sundays.

There would be a change in what services are available. Customers would no longer be able to send Parcelforce Worldwide parcels internationally, pay bills with pre-paid debit cards, pay by cheque or get on-demand travel insurance.

Retiree James Hewitt visits the Balfour Road post office every Monday to pay rent for his Sandy Lane home.

He said: “I don’t know what difference it will make until it’s happened, but it may well attract more people if it’s open longer and easier to use.”

The new opening hours mean that Post Office services will be available for an extra 33 hours a week.

Blackbird Leys parish councillor Brian Lester said: “I think it is a good thing to have them expanded, but only if there’s enough staff to go with it. There’s no point making them bigger and better unless there are people to man the tills.”

The post office on Westlands Drive in Headington has already seen the new format brought in.

It was closed for four days earlier this month, and now has an open-plan layout that the Blackbird Leys branches hope to replicate.

The Post Office is looking for residents to give their thoughts on the proposed changes.

Until May 8 people can share their views at postofficeviews.co.uk, or by emailing comments@postoffice.co.uk or calling 08457 22 33 44.

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