The last Mossley Post Office has announced its sudden closure, and locals are in shock.
The Manchester Road establishment has been running for more than 20 years and news of its closure next Thursday (February 8) has left its neighbours concerned for the high street’s future. Subpostmaster Idu Miah was one of hundreds of subpostmasters to suffer as a result of the faulty Horizon Computer system that was highlighted in the ITV docudrama ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’.
Much like many of those in the series, he has lost thousands of pounds of his own money due to the computer system designed by IT giant Fujitsu.
Although he has received some compensation from the Post Office for what he has lost, Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds says ‘scars remain’.
Since the other Post Office in Top Mossley and banks in the area closed, the establishment in Bottom Mossley was the last holdout for locals to withdraw cash and provide postal services. This means that Mossley residents will need to travel to Stalybridge, Ashton, Carbrook, Millbrook or Greenfield to access their nearest Post Office.
It is clear that Idu is a well-loved character in the area. His neighbouring shops will miss not just him, but what his Post Office brought to the area. Stalwarts of Manchester Road and newer businesses believe this closure is not just a blow on a personal level, but will impact their trade.
Craig Pattison, the local butcher a few doors down from the Post Office, said: “Losing it means we lose the passing trade – the people use the Post Office as an excuse to come here. That passing trade going down the road from his shop brings more people and helps businesses grow.
“Older people are a big proportion of our trade and that comes here to withdraw money and use the Post Office so losing that will be a big problem for us. This year has been the toughest in the 16 years I’ve been here.
“This is the first year it hasn’t grown and I have to sit tight. It’s not positive currently. There are other factors but I wouldn’t want to leave.
“Parking around here is an issue with the price going up from 20p to £1.20 for an hour – it’s getting less attractive. It is not really a high street anymore, especially without a Post Office.”
Craig, much like many of the businesses that spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, explained that the small community of Bottom Mossley are like a linking chain, and the chain "will lose a key link" come February 8. Just like Craig’s butchers, Andrea and Brett Dooley of Mossley Home Improvement Centre use the Post Office to get their change each day – now they will have to go further afield.
The businesses in the local area use one another's services regularly, so the cafe will source goods from the local butcher, and the butcher will buy lunch in the cafe in what is deemed an ‘old school’ village community approach.
For the Dooleys, this has worked a charm over their 54 years in business. In recent times though, they’ve seen the downturn of the high street and this latest loss is a big one in their eyes.
Andrea said: “We’re going to have to go to Ashton or wherever for their services now. Every time another business shuts down it adds more challenges as there are less people calling in.
“The positive thing about this place compared to online is that you get the service, and that goes for the other businesses like us as well.”
Brett added: “Lots of businesses have been sold off and turned into housing over the years. It’s not really a high street anymore because it’s just a few shops and takeaways.”
The businesses do have hope for the future though, with the newly opened Wildflower Florist, also on Manchester Road. Heather Flynn has been trading for just over four months now – and she loves it.
“It’s busy here for me,” she said. “I have nothing to compare to previously like other businesses, but it is a blow that the Post Office is closing. It’s so sad.
“I dropped him off a planter when I found out. He’s such a nice bloke and everyone knows him.
“It’ll be a big blow for the businesses. We were all shocked by the closure.
“Everyone was up in arms. He’s just such a nice chap and he’s not let anyone know about it.
“It’s like it is happening to one of your own, you don’t think it’ll happen near you until it does.
“I can’t believe they’ve shut him down with 10 days’ notice. At the end of the day he’s a human being and I hope he gets the settlement he deserves like the rest that have suffered.”
Despite the concerns from local businesses, hope remains for the retention of a Post Office following a push from the local Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde. MP Jonathan Reynolds has managed to get confirmation from the Post Office, after a push, that they hope to secure a new site for a branch in Mossley.
Mr Reynolds said: “The temporary closure of Mossley Post Office is upsetting. This is not the right way to treat the community, and not the right way to treat subpostmaster Idu Miah, who has already survived the Horizon Scandal at great personal expense.
“I was pleased to be able to help him recover some of the lost funds from that time, but the scars obviously remain. Thankfully through pushing the Post Office I have now been able to confirm that they hope to secure a new site for a branch in Mossley.
“A town the size of Mossley clearly requires its own post office. It had two until recently. Zero would be unacceptable.”
A Post Office spokesperson said: “The premises, where Mossley Post Office is currently based, is being withdrawn by the landlord for Post Office use on Thursday, February 8 at 5pm. We are working hard to restore service to the area as soon as possible.
“We have an applicant for the vacancy currently and hope this will result in a successful outcome shortly. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“In the interim, alternative branches include Carbrook, Millbrook and Greenfield.”
In regard to Horizon and compensation, the Post Office spokesperson added: “We are deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the events of the Horizon IT scandal have brought to so many people and their families. However, an apology from the Post Office is of course not enough and that is why we are working as fast as we can to provide redress for those affected.
“Compensation offers incorporate assessments by independent experts to provide applicants with the confidence their claims are being properly and fairly addressed. To date, compensation offers of more than £155 million have been made to around 2,700 postmasters, the majority of which have been agreed and paid.
“Interim payments continue to be made in those cases not yet resolved. We fully share the aims of the current Public Inquiry, set up to get to the truth of what happened in the past and accountability.”
The public outrage following the hit ITV series led to former Post Office boss Paula Vennells handing back her CBE.
All 2,417 applicants in the original cohort of the Horizon Shortfall Scheme have received an offer, and the majority (82 per cent) of these have been agreed and paid, the Post Office claims. The scheme remains open for additional applications.
Idu Miah, the Post Office subpostmaster in Bottom Mossley, did not respond for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.