We’ve been worried about losing Barrow Post Office for years and here is the brilliant news: we won’t lose it after all. It’s just going to move across the road. I, for one, think that’s terrific and is a really logical solution to a double problem. What’s more, it should work. I can think of plenty of other villages where the Post Office has moved into other existing businesses. I really liked the village in North Wales where it has moved into the pub. If queues get too long you can bide your time with a beer or a coffee. Or another which went to a Sports Centre and had a treadmill for customers to exercise on while they waited! All you need is some vision.
So, on March 24th, PO business starts in the Post Office building. Then at 12.59 you have to troop out, the doors are locked and off you go to the Paper Shop to complete your transaction! Darren Hickman, owner of the Paper Shop told me, “What you will find is a spanking new, streamlined service operating from a PO counter to the left of the present Paper Shop counter where the cards are at the moment. The cards will be moved elsewhere , but by using more efficient magazine and card racks and having a rationalization of the whole space, we will ensure that the Paper Shop remains spacious (more so than the present Post Office).”
The services that will be available represent 98% of the total existing PO services. You just won’t any longer be able to post a parcel to overseas forces. You will be able to pay in unlimited amounts (including businesses) as before and take out cash dictated by existing personal bank limits. In fact, you probably won’t notice much difference.
Lorraine Hickman and her assistant Nicole will shortly start on their training. They will operate both counters but because they will be using new user-friendly software for many transactions, the queues that we are used to at any Post Office should become a thing of the past. Darren is confident that the new service will be efficient and quick. He also pointed out another huge advantage of the move to the Paper Shop: its long opening hours. You will be able to get a parcel weighed and stamped at 5.00 in the morning or on Sunday morning until 1.00pm. You will even find the Post Office open on Bank Holidays. At very busy times such as Christmas, the Paper Shop will have the freedom to extend its hours still further.
Another innovation will be the introduction of CCTV giving residents added security. Nothing can really be done with the steps leading into the shop because the LCC Highways Department won’t allow a ramp nor the raising of the whole pavement. The steps into the Paper Shop have a similar handrail to those of the Post Office and are neither better nor worse.
Yet another improvement: the sorting office will move to a new location in the village so we will no longer see traffic building up at rush hour as a Post Office van backs up the drive beside the present Post Office. The vans will still need to park outside the Paper Shop to load and unload but at least that is well clear of the zigzag lines and the pedestrian crossing.
Finally, Darren remarked that there have been big changes to both businesses arising from the increased use of the internet: for the Paper Shop, more people are reading newspapers and magazines on line instead of buying them as paper copies. And for the Post Office, so many transactions are now carried out on line: emailing instead of writing letters, internet banking, applying for a road fund license and collecting pensions. Consequently for many people their only need for Post Office services is to post parcels. So it makes very good sense to combine the two businesses for mutual benefit and for the benefit of customers.
One way or another, I reckon that this merger is going to benefit the residents of Barrow. It may take a little time to bed in. You may need to be a bit patient with Lorraine and Nicole for the first few days (just as you were when we took over Barrow library!) But very quickly you will be asking, “However did we manage before?” The Barrow Voice team extends its good wishes Darren and Lorraine.