COUNCILLORS are calling for action, warning the only surviving post office in the Northallerton area is under threat after opening hours were reduced.

The Post Office has responded, insisting the problems are due to the challenging times caused by the pandemic, but Northallerton town councillors are so concerned they are writing to Richmond MP Rishi Sunak calling on him to help.

Northallerton's main post office in the High Street was closed two years ago and moved into the WH Smith store with promises that opening hours would be extended to cover Sundays. But Northallerton town and Hambleton district councillor Paul Atkin said it no longer opens on Sunday and was even closing at short notice, sometimes on Fridays and Saturdays because of staffing problems. He said this had come on top of the recent closure of HSBC bank.

"We have been sold down the river," he said: "This has gone on far too long now and needs Northallerton Town Council and Hambleton District Council to most strongly object to WH Smith about the manner in which it is quite obviously closing the Northallerton Post Office, the only one now in the area, by stealth.

"Sudden closures are frequent and without the option of using Romanby Post Office, which closed a few months ago, this must have a very serious detrimental affect on the public and local businesses. We are seeing bank closures, we cannot lose the Post Office. We were promised there would be no reductions in service, this is certainly untrue."

He said there were frequently staffing problems and understood all requests for more staff had been turned down.

Councillor David Richardson said the Post Office had reneged on their agreement: "It is just not good enough," he added.

County councillor David Blades said the issue had been referred to Mr Sunak. Members were told the MP had been assured when the Post Office was moved into WH Smith that there would be an extension of nine hours a week including Sundays. Town councillors agreed to write to the MP calling for his help.

A spokesperson for the Post Office said: "Retailers are still operating in challenging times due to the pandemic.

"Northallerton has been operating revised hours to focus on keeping the branch staffed during the core hours of Monday to Saturday, 8.30am to 5.30pm. This helps to ensure that there are sufficient staff.

"On occasion, sickness or staff being pinged to self-isolate have unavoidably affected staffing levels. This is an issue affecting retailers across the UK."