WESTBURY Town Council is to look into the possibility of taking over the running of the post office if no other operators can be found.
Westbury’s main post office at The Co-operative supermarket is set to close in October and concerns that a suitable premises for the post office to move to continue to grow.
Now Westbury Town Council has set up a ‘task and finish’ group to explore the feasibility of running the post office, potentially in a premises in the High Street.
But suggestions that the post office could open in the library have been criticised as ‘pure speculation’ and ‘highly unlikely’.
A motion was put forward at last week’s town council meeting by cllr Hawker and cllr Ezra which said, “This council is prepared to consider taking on the responsibility of running a main post office and providing premises, subject to a full analysis of the likely revenue, costs and risks involved, but only on a last resort basis.
“If any other organisation that is acceptable to Post Office Ltd is in a position to run a main post office in the town, the council would withdraw its interest on the basis that there is no need to step in.
“At present, neither Post Office Ltd nor any other organisation or person is indicating that anyone is actually proceeding to provide the new post office.”
Councillor Ian Cunningham voted in favour to set up the group, but questioned whether it might give false hope to the town.
Cllr Cunningham said, “Small post offices have long needed the support of another business even before digital services slashed visits for pensions, benefits, road fund etc. etc. Morrisons and Lidl decided against and the socially supportive Co-op left; prospects are not likely to improve.
“Some people rely on the post office so it is reasonable for the council to look at a post office as a social duty. But I suspect much support is nostalgic, like people’s view on High Street shops – consider how often and when you last used a local post office? I voted for a group to look at the problem but I wouldn’t want anyone to assume that the post office is now saved. People need to think how much they might be prepared to pay in their council tax for a non-commercial council-led solution.
“The timing of this item was unfortunate, coming just before an election dissolves this council but just after it set the precept (council tax) for the 2017-18 year, meaning that there isn’t any budget to do anything when the post office closes.”
It was reported earlier this month that the post office could open in the library – a claim Westbury councillors refuted.
Cllr Russell Hawker said, “The claim that the post office will pop up in the library is pure speculation. Whilst Wiltshire Council is currently looking at the format of the library, there are no plans for the post office to be part of the library. It is technically possible but highly unlikely.”