Wigan’s central Post Office could be closed and moved to WH Smith under plans which have drawn fury from politicians and trade unions.
The town centre branch of the Post Office, housed in an iconic building on Wallgate, is one of 74 across the country under threat from the new proposals.
The building would shut and the services would be transferred to a counter somewhere in the town’s WH Smith store on Standishgate under franchising proposals.
However, the fightback is already beginning with the communications union the CWU pledging to do everything in its power to stop the move going ahead.
Carl Webb, regional secretary for the CWU, said: “We will be launching a local campaign in Wigan with all stakeholders and interested parties to save the Post Office.
“We’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep it open. We’re not going to let the Post Office get away with this.
“Local people will be able to get involved and we’ve already spoken to the MP Lisa Nandy. We’re working with the local council as well.
“These people have worked for the Post Office for many years. They are good public servants and they don’t want to work for WH Smith. We will fight to keep their jobs.
“Companies are not providing a public service, they just want to increase footfall in their shops. Once a Post Office has gone you never get that same level of service.”
Relocation or closure of a post office is subject to a six-week local consultation, the dates of which have yet to be announced for Wigan.
The CWU says the transfer could happen before the end of the year although there will have to be a 90-day TUPE consultation period for staff who would go over to WH Smith.
The proposal has been greeted with fury locally.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy confirmed on Twitter she is working with the CWU to stop the franchising, saying: “Wigan doesn’t deserve to lose our flagship post office.”
Opposition comes from across the political spectrum, with independent representative Coun Paul Maiden getting in touch with the Wigan Post to express his concern at the plan.
Critics also hit out at WH Smith’s involvement in the franchising, pointing out that the company has recently announced it is planning to close some stores and potentially shed the jobs there due to its financial position.
The Post Office said Wigan is one of 40 branches which it plans to relocate into WH Smith stores in 2019. The arrangements being drawn up also involved 33 post offices which are already in shops but still run by the Post Office being fully franchised to WH Smith.
The company defended the move as necessary to support its long-term sustainability and protect opening hours for customers.
Post Office network and sales director Roger Gale said: “We’re continuing to respond to unprecedented change on high streets and in consumer trends. Our collaboration with WH Smith helps to secure our services on high streets for years to come.
“By adapting to the needs of customers we’re making sure Post Offices will matter as much tomorrow as they do today, with services available when and where people want them, in convenient locations and open for longer hours, including Sundays.
“The vast majority of the Post Office’s network of 11,500 Post Office branches, large and small, are run on a franchise or agency basis with retailers as part of thriving businesses.
“It makes sense to further expand this successful, sustainable way of providing Post Office services to customers.”