Spar urged to reconsider removal of post offices from six Fife shops

By Jon Brady, Local Democracy Reporter

(Photo: Post Office)

Fife councillors have condemned a decision by convenience store operator Spar to remove Post Office services from a number of its stores within the Kingdom.

The firm says it is removing loss-making Post Office counters from stores where they are proving a financial burden.

Critics say the move will deprive communities already bereft of community services of their last lifelines, given that Post Office counters can be used for banking with most high street financial institutions.

Six Fife Post Offices are set to be scrapped as part of the plan: Thornton, Balmullo, East Wemyss, Ladybank, Newport-on-Tay and St Andrews. Four of those are in North East Fife alone.

Spar is also pulling the shutters down at counters in Tayside and Aberdeen.

At the most recent meeting of the North East Fife area committee on Wednesday, Cllr Andy Heer filed an urgent motion calling on the committee to “deplore” the decision.

“It was a shock,” the Howe of Fife and Tay Coast Conservative said of the decision.

“It’s going to leave people without a vital service. People are going to have to go a long way to access these services and I would urge Spar to reconsider its decision.”

St Andrews Lib Dem Jane Ann Liston added: “This isn’t just about Post Offices – it’s a bank too.

“When bank branches have closed people have been told to go the Post Office, and this will have a knock-on effect. It’s extremely serious.”

Howe of Fife and Tay Coast SNP representative David MacDiarmid, while supportive of the call for Spar to reconsider, is not optimistic about its prospects.

“I wonder how much weight will be considered by Spar leadership,” he said. “How much weight are we actually going to have in making them change their minds? “It’ll be the same as the banks. We won’t have any.”

The Post Office itself has criticised Spar’s decision, branding it “disappointing” due to the efforts postmasters had made to keep the counters going.

A spokesperson told the Courier newspaper: “Post offices play an important role in the heart of local communities across Scotland and we are disappointed that Spar Scotland announced the counters they operate on our behalf will close at a number of their stores.

“We have worked closely with Spar Scotland to help keep open essential post office services for their customers.

“We will look for replacement solutions both on a temporary or permanent basis for these branches that close.”

A Spar spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the position of having to change the services we offer over the next six months.

“This is representative of the industry-wide pressures on retail outlets as we evolve to keep up with changing consumer habits.”