A NEW scheme designed to offer improved services for post office users has been piloted in Ballygally.
Over the next three-years, the Post Office will invest £1.34 billion in a bid to modernise its network of branches across the UK. The overhaul aims to give customers a better experience by reducing waiting times and providing extending opening hours.
And the Spar in Ballygally is the first retailer in the Larne Borough to benefit from the ‘local branch’ model, which is designed to allow Post Office services to operate in convenience-type stores.
The model combines the post office and the retail aspect of the shop, enabling customers to avail of services such as pension collection, electricity top ups and sending packages at the till.
Shop owner Grahame Todd told the Times that the new model has been “a real hit” with customers.
“We have had great feedback from local people regarding the new set-up. There is virtually no queueing, and because the shop is open until 8pm, people can post letters or use other Post Office services up to closing time.
“With us being a small branch, we only offer essential Post Office services and there are still a number of things that customers will require customers to travel to a bigger branch in Larne. But this new branch has made a big difference to local people.”
At the latest monthly meeting of Larne Council, representatives from the Post Office were in attendance to give an update on the organisation’s plans for the coming years.
And councillors took the opportunity to give their views on the pilot branch in Ballygally, as well as enquire about the future of Post Office services in Glenarm, which no longer has a branch of its own.
Larne Mayor, Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna said: “The new system being trialled in Ballygally is brilliant and I cannot praise it enough.”
Coast Road Cllr Maureen Morrow added that the Ballygally branch “seems to be working very well”, and asked what progress was being made in Glenarm.
Mark Gibson, Post Office senior stakeholder manager for NI said: “We are not dragging our feet and are working diligently to try and get a Post Office up and running in Glenarm.”
Members were told that the difficulty in setting up a branch in Glenarm stems from the fact that no business has been willing to take on Post Office services since the village’s previous sub-postmaster resigned.