TWO of Teesside’s busiest post offices have been earmarked for potential closure.

Town centre branches at Redcar and Stockton could close their doors as part of Post Office plans to franchise up to 70 of their Crown branches.

They intend to replace the Crown premises – usually found on high streets or in busy shopping centres – with post offices located in other stores.

By franchising branches and partnering them with retailers, the Post Office hope to boost profit, maintain their high street presence and modernise branches to meet customer needs.

But the Communication Workers Union, which represents post office workers, has hit out at the plans, claiming jobs will inevitably be lost and the provision of services compromised.

General Secretary Billy Hayes said staff would be in shock over the proposals and estimated more than 700 people employed by the Post Office would be affected as a result. He described the move as potentially “very damaging” to the future potential of the post office network.

He said: "This move will have a huge impact on the high streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown Post Office.

"These offices provide a dedicated specialist service to communities which will not be replicated by a window or two in a bigger shop.

"We've seen problems with access to post office services in previous franchise arrangements and fear this announcement could create further barriers to accessing a range of post office services.”

According to the Cleveland branch of the CWU, up to 40 jobs could be affected in the Teesside area.

Branch Secretary Peter Hall said he believed the moves will place the worker’s jobs at risk and are a way of “selling off the post office’s crown jewels.” He also confirmed that union action was being planned.

A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: “We will be working closely with our people to ensure their needs are met whether that is a transfer to a new employer or redeployment in the Post Office.

"We have a strong track record of working closely with our people to ensure their preferences are fully considered. We have of course been working with the unions on this and are ensuring our people are fully briefed on their options.”