Postal counter services in Port St Mary may yet be saved, after Isle of Man Post office announced it had received a late expression of interest.
The closure of the Port St Mary services seemed certain after the retirement of the existing Sub Postmaster at the end of this month.
The Post office has now confirmed it has reopened the request for quotes exercise for providing services in Port St Mary so it can fully explore a late expression of interest it has received.
Chairwoman Julie Edge MHK said: ‘There have been many untruths in the media about IOMPO and its Board in the past few days which have been disappointing to read. On behalf of the Board, I can honestly say that we do very much recognise the social value sub post offices provide in communities across the Island and where it is viable and there is interest to maintain services, we will endeavour to do this.
‘However, the reality is digital ways of transacting our daily business are superseding the need for face-to-face services, and therefore demand and interest in providing these is diminishing and it’s our role to respond accordingly and responsibly in line with our Retail Modernisation Strategy, (which includes ensuring that 96% of Island residents live within 3 miles of a service access point for postal services, with a postal service access point in each constituency), to this ever-increasing challenge.’
A statement from IOMPO said that it ran exercise in Port St Mary, ‘with a number of stakeholders advised from the outset including the General Election candidates for Rushen, Port St Mary Commissioners, the current and neighbouring sub postmasters and the National Federation of Sub Postmasters’. However no one came forward to run the board. The statement added: ‘Therefore the Board faced no alternative than to advise customers earlier this week that they would need to use the nearest available post office with effect from November 1 when the sub postmaster retires.
‘The extended RFQ will now run for a further two weeks to allow the late interested party to formally submit the relevant documentation in order to consider their desire and suitability to progress their interest further. At the same time, it will provide the opportunity for any other possible interested parties to come forward also. IOMPO also wish to highlight that there is no guarantee a workable solution can be found at this stage.’
The closure of the village’s counter services was criticised by MHKs Juan Watterson and Dr Michelle Haywood who accused the Post Office of running a request for quotes period that was too short.
They added: ‘It appears to us that this was just held over until after the election to deflect a public backlash. A sensible length of time advertising the service would have allowed other possible businesses to come forward. This whole situation has been driven by the Post Office procedures for dealing with a sub-postmaster retirement, and not by the needs or wishes of the community that this Post Office serves. The persistent failure of the Post Office Board to recognise the community value of having town Post Offices, whilst returning over £1.6 million profits shows that the Post Office no longer acts in the national interest.’