County axes plan to run post office in Gosport library

ON THE MOVE? Gosport's current Post Office
ON THE MOVE? Gosport's current Post Office
23/11/2016 (DR)

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PLANS to move Gosport’s post office into the discovery centre have been dropped.

Hampshire County Council has abandoned talks, saying it cannot subsidise the service if it moves to the council-run Gosport Discovery Centre.

The News understands Post Office refused to pay more than half the relocation costs.

But there are fresh hopes to improve the office as Gosport Borough Council now wants to move it to the town hall.

Cllr Mark Hook, the leader of the borough council, said: ‘Naturally I’m disappointed because the best solution is for the post office to move.

‘I’ve asked our chief executive to open discussions with Post Office to see if there’s a possibility of the office moving to the town hall.’

He said the post office would need to be self-financing.

The branch, in High Street, has been widely criticised by residents and councillors.

As reported, Cllr Hook had described the office as a ‘severe embarrassment’ and called the inside a ‘disgrace.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said she wants Post Office to offer a better deal.

She said: ‘I’ve been campaigning for years to get something done about the dire state of the branch.

‘I can see the quandary facing the county council – it has offered to house and run the service but, as they are spending taxpayers’ money, they can’t do so at a loss.

‘I’ve written to the CEO of the Post Office suggesting that they make a better offer.’

The blow comes after a year of negotiations.

Cllr Keith Chapman is executive member for culture, recreation and countryside services at the county council.

He said the business case shows the post office would need to be subsidised.

‘We’ve no experience of operating a post office and have limited management capacity needed to ensure the quality of the post office service during these times of financial austerity,’ he said.

‘I understand that this will be a disappointment.’

The new plans could mean front desk staff at the town hall will be in on a Saturday.

‘We don’t offer a Saturday service,’ Cllr Hook said.

‘If the post office were to be in the reception area then the town hall would be open.’

Only front desk staff would be in on a Saturday.

Post Office said it was in talks with two parties, adding the branch is open for the ‘foreseeable future.’

It added: ‘Longer term we are looking for a new subpostmaster to operate the branch from suitable premises.’