MP hits out at Post Office "chaos"

Darlington and Stockton Times: Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North

AN MP has hit out at the Post Office for giving residents the wrong information.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, spoke of his frustration at the "chaos" surrounding the temporary closure of the post office branch in Portrack Lane, Stockton.

The Portrack Lane branch is due to undergo refurbishment and customers have been advised to use an alternative service at the Crown Post Office branch on Stockton High Street.

But, in fact, the Stockton High Street Post Office no longer exists at the given address. The town centre post office was downgraded in February and relocated into the nearby WHSmith store. That was despite protests against the move and Stockton Borough Council’s £20m refurbishment of the High Street.

Mr Cunningham, who campaigned against the downgrading of the facility, said: "The Post Office continues to provide details for an alternative service at the former Crown Office branch in Stockton, despite the building being moved three months prior.

“This merely confirms that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing during these hasty reforms.

"The investment being made to upgrade facilities at the Portrack Lane branch is welcomed.

"But it is of great importance that Post Office branches continue to offer the services that are vital to local customers."

Mr Cunningham said he had been working closely with residents and the Communication Workers' Union around the closure and downgrading of local post offices.

“The potential loss of transcash facilities and ceasing to except payment by cheque will have implications on some customers' ability to make payments,” he said.

He fears this will hit those without access to other banking or financial services especially hard.

Mr Cunningham contacted the Post Office to respond to the consultation over the Portrack Lane branch but, despite using the address on the information documents, his letter was returned unopened.

He then received a standardised letter saying that no comments had been received through the consultation.

He said: “I have again written to Post Office requesting that my concerns are given appropriate consideration before the proposed changes are finalised and calling on them to ensure that accurate information on alternative service provision is updated and communicated to stakeholders to avoid further confusion and insult.”

A spokesman for the Post Office said: “We are very sorry that Mr Cunningham experienced difficulties in giving us his feedback, and when making changes to our existing branches we provide full details of the plans to customers and write to opinion formers.

“Customers are invited to express their views by letter to a Freepost address, by email or by phone.”

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