Regional Manager Craig Perrins opened the latest event with a clear mission for the evening’s discussions – keep challenging us to be true to our promise to keep you at the heart of everything we do, and keep your questions and ideas coming in.
In his business update, Group CEO Nick Read was keen to emphasise to the more than 130 postmasters in attendance, that this is a time of change from the past, and that plans are being worked on to involve postmasters more in future, in developing our strategy and business decisions. He also reiterated that the business will be focused on supporting Postmaster income and driving footfall, with ambitions to be best in class on the ‘Big 4’ - Mails & Parcels, Banking, Travel and Bill Payments.
Joining Craig and Nick on camera were senior leaders Martin Kearsley, Owen Woodley, Amanda Jones, Andy Kingham and Mark Siviter, as well as Postmasters Lisa from North East Convenience and Steve Crook from Ambleside who put their questions directly to the panel and received reassurances that the business is committed to doing all they can to make their businesses profitable.
The Stronger Together events are all about listening to postmasters and a key part of the event was the Q&A session. One question submitted was on the topical issue of mask-wearing for customers and those working in branches. Head of Network Andy Kingham explained that we have full guidance available on this already as branches in Scotland have faced these issues already given the different approach taken here. Mask wearing won’t be enforced, visors are supplied for those working in public areas, as well as screens. Customers will only be asked to remove face coverings for necessary ID checks where relevant.
Travel was another hot topic – with a question for Group Chief Commercial Officer Owen Woodley on Travel Money, and whether postmasters could offer flexibility in rates locally to remain competitive in response to other local options. Owen said he was feeling optimistic given our early restart in this market compared to many others, and that it would be closely monitored in case local adjustments could be made – but making sure we keep the balance right on margins.
There were numerous other questions raised and answered (and after all our events have taken place, we’ll make sure answers are provided to all of them, and once the Q&A session drew to a close, it was time to move on to some well-deserved recognition and celebrate the achievement of Postmasters in the region. While the annual Post Office Retail Awards are unable to take place this year due to the virus, recognition is still extremely important, and so every regional manager has nominated some stand-out branches for some special commendations.
The three North region postmasters who received a special commendation in the following categories were:
Better for Customers: Alison Paige, Spofforth
Alison was commended for the lengths she went to keeping essential services running for her customers, operating 7 days a week from 5am-7.30pm. But she also expanded the help she could provide, organising the collection and delivery of prescriptions as well as fresh local food deliveries from the branch for those in need. She persuaded the village society for help, who provided volunteers acting as marshals outside the shop to help maintain the 2 metre social distance and assist with deliveries. She also uses her social media to support her communications out to the village. Overall, more than 40 volunteers have been involved from the start of lockdown, and several hundred deliveries have been made, not only in the village but to customers who come from much further afield.
Community Engagement: Balifit Singh, Riddlesden
Balifit caught our attention when he posted a message saying “If anyone is self-isolating or money has run out due to the current work situation, food is maybe low, please do not go to sleep with an empty stomach. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to send me a private message. I will be more than happy to share what I have. We should all be pulling together, especially now more than ever”.
He arranged for flyers to be delivered locally with his Post Office address and his mobile number asking “Hello if you are self-isolating I can help - Picking up Shopping, A friendly phone call, Posting Mail, Urgent Supplies”. This care for those in need has been greatly appreciated by the local community.
Local Hero: Azim Shaikh, Whalley
When Azim saw the shocking statistics of the hundreds and thousands of UK citizens affected by the deadly Coronavirus, he decided to take action to do whatever was possible to help his local community.
Witnessing vulnerable customers and members of the public who were suffering due to the pandemic affected him greatly, he decided to use his time to research local charities where he could volunteer and help out.
He is now part of the ‘Benefit Mankind’ team, working together with volunteers in supporting projects on a day to day basis, and has been involved with delivering food supplies to the Local Village Hall, Care Homes and supporting our NHS throughout this extremely difficult time.