‘No consultation’ over Post Office

Braemar residents have expressed their disappointment at not being consulted over planned changes to the local Post Office.

Services at Braemar Post Office are due to be reinstated in Marr Road next month, with the trial of a Post Office local service.

The branch, which was housed in Braemar Co-op, closed temporarily in March for the premises to be refurbished and instead, a temporary service was offered at the old Strachan’s shop in Invercauld Road.

Local residents are unhappy at a number of key changes to the new service, which will see the Post Office open from 7am until 10pm, seven days a week - the same as the Co-op store.

Braemar Community Council chairman John Macpherson said that the council had failed to be be consulted over the proposals.

He said: “There has been no contact from anyone associated with the Post Office. Everyone I have spoken to says they don’t want these changes. There is no need for the Post Office to be open for that length of time and we are also losing key services.”

“I called a representative from the Post Office on Tuesday and I’m hopeful we can organise a meeting with someone from the company where the proposed changes can be discussed in more detail.”

The changes would see the removal of express and international deliveries, meaning Braemar residents will have to travel to Ballater to use these services.

In a letter to Post Office field change advisor Brian Turnbull, local councillor Geva Blackett said she “strongly objects” to the changes “on a number of grounds”.

“I don’t think we actually need such extended service and would prefer to see resources focusing on what this very remote rural community actually does need,” said Cllr Blackett.

“We have a number of businesses in the village who regularly send parcels to customers and want to use an express service.

“Braemar is approximately 18 miles from Ballater, thus a round trip to the Post Office in Netherly Place is approximately 36 miles and adds a considerable financial burden on businesses relying on the current service and will mean leaving shops unattended during business hours for at least an hour. Equally, residents may wish to send urgent parcels. I would suggest that the changes you propose are totally unacceptable.”

Cllr Blackett, who lives in the village, also states in her letter that the banking facilities at Braemar Post Office must be kept.

“With banking only available in this community three days a week, the Change Giving service is an essential part of the Post Offices role here.

“There has been absolutely no consultation with the community this Post Office serves, or indeed even with the Braemar Community Council.

“I urge you to rectify this as a matter of urgency and before making changes to the service we have always enjoyed (and indeed many businesses rely on!)”

Fellow ward councillor Katrina Farquhar also condemned the lack of communication from the Post Office.

She said: “ I find the way the Post Office has dealt with this change of service unacceptable.

“They state they followed a code of conduct but it certainly isn’t the Post Office code of conduct. If they continue with these changes it will be detremental to businesses in the village who send goods all over the world by post.

“The nearest village to get change at the Post Office would now be Ballater which is no use for business owners in Braemar.”

The re-opening of Braemar Post Office was set to be on August 2 but that has been delayed until August 9.

Post Office local is a new concept for delivering Post Office services, operated from an open plan counter in an established shop, with a range of Post Office products and services available alongside retail transactions during longer opening hours.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “Post Office Ltd are committed to maintaining and improving our Post Office branches, including offering extended opening hours for customers where possible.

“As well as investing in our branches we are also committed maintaining the branch network at its current size recognising the major social value that Post Office branches provide to communities such as Braemar.

“Services will include automated banking services, bill and budget payment schemes, Post Office card account, postal orders as well as postage for inland letters and packets (including Signed For and Special Delivery), inland parcels, international letters and packets.”

Post Office say they will monitor the new local service over the next 12 months to ensure it meets the needs of customers.