On hearing the news in March that the Post Office may close its doors on its Haslemere branch Jeremy swung into action arranging a meeting with Post Office CEO Paula Vennells on 26 April. He has also since met with the town’s Mayor, Sahran Abeysundara and most recently spoken with former Mayor, Brian Howard to work out what can be done to save this essential facility for the town and its residents.
The encouraging news from Jeremy’s meeting with Ms Vennells last month was firstly, that the Post Office is trying to secure a lease extension until the end of next January, and secondly that the organisation is committed to maintaining a Post Office in Haslemere.
Jeremy Hunt said: “Haslemere WILL have a Post Office, whatever. And if we can work up a community solution involving taking ownership of the building so much the better, and we will actively explore that over the next few weeks. I was encouraged by my meeting with Post Office CEO, Paula Vennells and I am assured she is doing all she can to work with the town to maintain a service. We now need to make sure she is as good as her word.”
Ms Vennells said: “The existing lease on the Post Office is due to expire at the end of June. We are currently in discussion with the landlord to extend the lease for a further six months to allow us extra time to find a permanent new location for Haslemere Post Office. The branch is currently run by a temporary Postmaster and we are looking for a long-term solution. The permanent vacancy is currently being advertised on our website www.runapostoffice.co.uk”
Since then, former Mayor, Brian Howard has announced that he is very keen to try to put together a Community Consortium to acquire the Freehold of the building.
He said: "I believe that any long term solution is dependent on having control of the building. We have wonderful examples in Haslemere of how a Community Trust can work very effectively. Haslemere Hall and Haslemere Museum are the most obvious of these. We benefit today from those Haslemere Crown Jewels because of the imagination and endeavour of our forebears. It is now time for us to rally together and do something today that will not only benefit the present but will enhance the Town’s future."
There are around 1,700 customer transactions a week - with many Post Office Card Holders drawing their pensions (including a number without bank accounts). It also provides vital services like passport application checking, which can be a real lifeline for older people including people with dementia who want help checking they have filled out the form correctly before they send it off.