Townsfolk in Innerleithen are demanding that a permanent post office be reinstated as they are unhappy about the part-time mobile service currently on offer.
The town is temporarily being served by a mobile outreach van service every Friday between 9.30am and 1pm after the town’s DayMart store ceased to act as a post office following the resignation of the post master there on Thursday, February 9.
However, residents are critical of the reduced service and are calling for a full-time post office to be run in the town again.
Many welcome this week’s news that long-established High Street shop Caldwell’s Ice Cream Parlour has applied to take over the running of the service.
Owner Andrew Caldwell said: “I felt the town needed more than a van sitting in a layby for three hours a week.
“When we heard the place was closing, we thought it was important to apply. We would have went for it before, but it was all advertised online, so we missed out last time.”
Mr Caldwell is now expecting a visit from the Post Office within the next two weeks but will not expect to hear any news on his bid until after an ongoing consultation on the mobile van service ends on March 24.
He believes his shop, established in 1911 and run by three generations of the Caldwell family, has enough room to comfortably host post office services, and he hopes they would create further jobs.
“We would need the support of the town to keep it going and for this to work,” Mr Caldwell added. “We are asking people to put in their views, and we need as many people as possible to do that and reply to the consultation that the post office is running.”
His bid has already been backed by Tweeddale East councillor Graham Garvie, Tweeddale MP David Mundell and Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame.
Ms Grahame said: “I have been in touch with the Post Office and Innerleithen Community Council since the news of the post office’s withdrawal from Innerleithen first broke.
“It is absolutely essential that a thriving, growing town like Innerleithen has a full range of postal services – and not just for a few hours once a week.
“The news that Caldwell’s, a popular and well established local business, is considering hosting these services is a promising development, and I stand ready to help with that bid in any way I can.”
Mr Mundell added: “It is clear, with Innerleithen being a growing town serving those who live there and beyond in terms of vital services, that a mobile service for a few hours on a Friday simply isn’t going to meet the demand from residents.
“I have made it clear to the Post Office that it needs to come up with a far better solution that will deliver services on a much more regular basis in Innerleithen to meet locals’ needs.”
However, former postmaster Kashief Ali, who ran the post office service from his DayMart store until last month, has warned that anyone taking on the running of the service should be prepared for a challenging time.
He said: “Since we took on the post office, we have had problems. People have been shouting at us, and we have had threats from people when we’ve asked them for ID.
“People were complaining about us having our two-year-old baby in the shop, but it is a family-run business. What do they expect?”
Mr Ali and his wife, who have lived in the town for over six years, set up the post office within their DayMart general store in February 2015 after the High Street post office closed down.
“We took over the running of the post office for the sake of the community,” he added.
“I know a lot of people have been affected by this, but we could not keep going with it under such abuse.
“We received no support from the Post Office at all.
“I got in touch with the post office union and even the chairman of that didn’t get back to me.”
Mr Ali says he had already registered his intention to give up the post office back in August, months before the burglary that saw his shop raided and a five-figure sum of cash and a quantity of cigarettes taken overnight on Wednesday, February 8.
“I had made up my mind already,” he said. “I have had two years of stress. Hopefully I will come back to my life. It was the worst decision of my life.”
“If someone has £20,000 to £25,000 in their pocket to subsidise the Post Office then I would recommend it.”
Residents have until March 24 to share their views on postal services in the town by contacting the Post Office through email: firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 03457223344 or through their website www.postofficeviews.com.