Loss of post office a 'devastating blow' for Wick
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News that Wick is to lose its last post office has united local councillors and politicians to seek a solution.
The post office, situated on Bridge Street within the card and gift shop Best Wishes, will cease to trade on October 30 when postmaster Younes Amin resigns from the position, with the nearest branch then being situated eight miles away in Watten.
North MSP Gail Ross said: “I was disappointed to hear about the imminent closure of the post office in Wick and my thanks go to everyone that has kept it open for so long.
"A post office surely is a service that every community should expect. The fact that the Westminster government hasn’t put in place a universal service obligation and more support to keep them open is a national scandal.
"I will be writing again to Kelly Tolhurst MP, who is the minster in charge of postal services, but given her dismissal of unfair delivery charges I am not holding out hope of a positive reply.”
North MP Jamie Stone said he was appalled by the news and would be raising the matter in the House of Commons as soon as possible.
“A community the size of Wick and Pulteneytown absolutely deserves to have its own post office," he said.
"Its closure would be a massive inconvenience to local people. The UK government must be brought to its senses – instead of being allowed to endlessly rubber-stamp post office closures.
"If this dreary course continues, we could end with hardly any post offices at all. Enough is enough. In the meantime, I am writing to the responsible minister outlining my very strong objection.”
Wick and East Caithness councillors, who are involved in a plan to revamp Wick town centre, said they have "been in a dialogue" with the Post Office on this topic for some time.
Councillor Raymond Bremner said that over the past three years he and his colleagues have been discussing the matter since the closures of the Wick High Street post office and the Pulteneytown branch. "It’s very much on the agenda," he said.
Fellow councillor Nicola Sinclair said: "The loss of the post office is a devastating blow for Wick and the county more broadly, especially at a time when we’re doing all we can to regenerate the town centre.
"I want to thank the Amin family for their efforts in sustaining it – I spoke to them regularly when I popped in to Best Wishes and I know it wasn’t easy.
"In February I invited Mark Gibson, Post Office external affairs manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, to meet with Caithness councillors and discuss the issues with sustaining our post offices. He flew over from Northern Ireland to attend [pre-Covid] and I was really encouraged by how positive he was about Wick.
"The big challenge is the business model, which only offers commission to postmasters and not a salary – this means the onus is to cover overheads through retail, which isn’t easy in a quiet town centre. However, he was certain there was a way, and post offices are still running in smaller towns and villages."
Councillor Sinclair continued: "In discussion with Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council I have taken an action to invite Mark to a follow-up meeting, to look at how a post office could be sustained in Wick. I’ve seen some comments on Facebook suggesting that our politicians need to sort this out and I want to emphasise that the post office is privatised and we don’t have the power to keep it open – but we are doing all we can as far as lobbying goes, and when we meet with the Post Office and the community council we will aim to get a plan together for moving forward."
Councillor Sinclair emphasised that, though it is a big setback, "all is not lost".
"The post office is crucial to the town and we’ll do all we can to retain local services," she added.
Alastair Ferrier sent a comment on behalf of the local community councillors saying how saddened they are over the closure of the post office.
Mr Ferrier said: "We realise this will cause concern for many, not just in the town, but also in the wider community, and will have an impact on many. However, we would like to say a huge thank-you to Best Wishes and the Amin family for taking on the responsibility of the post office as well as opening up two brand new shops in Bridge Street and keeping the service open for so long after the previous post office in High Street closed.
"We know this decision hasn’t been made lightly and we offer all the best to Best Wishes for the future.
"As the Post Office is now, and has been for a number of years, a private business which operates as a franchise model, the prospect would be to attract a business which would see taking on the role of postmaster and post office or, if to no avail, to seek some sort of other system which would be viable. The number one objective would be to have the post office operating in a full-time capacity.
"We have had communications from our Highland councillors through Nicola Sinclair who is already looking into this. In addition we have also had confirmation from both Jamie Stone MP and Gail Ross MSP and will be looking into ways forward for ensuring there is a post office available in Wick.
"Both Jamie and Gail have confirmed they are going to join forces and work together on the matter. As this is an issue reserved to Westminster, Jamie Stone has confirmed he shall be bringing this up in Westminster with the support of Gail Ross."