PLANS to close Morningside Post Office and move operations to a retail outlet in the area have prompted fears of longer queues and a poorer service.
The branch at 265 Morningside Road is on a list of 37 Crown Post Offices across the UK to be “franchised”.
But Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray – who has already gathered more than 1000 signatures on an online petition against the move – said experience suggests franchised branches meant fewer services delivered by fewer staff.
Research by Consumer Focus in 2011 found franchises were worse than Crown offices for queue times, transaction times, customer advice, disabled access and the number of counter positions.
Mr Murray said: “Morningside is a busy and popular post office that provides vital services for the whole community and local businesses.
“The Conservative Government has forced a ‘transformation programme’ on the Post Office that has put Crown Post Offices and local branches in jeopardy.
“As the former Shadow Minister for Postal Affairs, I know the experience of franchising across the country is that they have fewer services delivered by significantly fewer staff.
“There are also no alternative plans when franchising fails but closure. Report after report from independent organisations have shown this.
“The Post Office should be working with their Crown branches to make them more efficient and profitable prior to taking the decision to franchise and dilute services for local people.”
Steve Gregory, of Morningside Community Council, said the post office was well-used. “It is always busy and pretty often you have a fairly long queue for counter services.
“Anything that reduces services or takes them away from Morningside would be very concerning.”
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the announcement would be disappointing for residents. “It comes on top of the announced departure of RBS from the area, and Morningside Road will be worse for the loss of these important local amenities.”
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs voiced concern for older people who depend on the post office services. “This is a vital local facility and I will be making urgent representations to the Post Office asking for specific guarantees that there will be no reductions in service before any new arrangements are put in place.”
A post office spokeswoman said: “The point of our plans is that we are looking into the future and starting to take the actions needed to avoid branches becoming unsustainable in years to come. We are planning for branches to remain on high streets and in shopping centres, but operated in a more cost-effective way.”
She indicated it could be up to 18 months before any change. “We will take time to identify the right partner for the Morningside branch and all proposals will be subject to local consultation.”