Spar has been accused of “abandoning” Aberdeen’s poorest citizens after announcing the closure of Post Office counters in the city’s most-deprived areas.
Bosses revealed earlier this week that they plan to end Post Office services at five of its branches in Aberdeen.
Now the chain is facing a furious backlash over the move, which was described as “catastrophic” by one MSP.
The affected counters are in Kincorth, Torry, St Machar, Clifton Road and Northfield, leading to claims the decision would disproportionately affect the city’s poorest residents.
‘Appalling’ decision to close counters
North-east MSP Douglas Lumsden branded the decision “appalling” and accused Spar of “turning its back on residents”.
“These Post Office closures have the potential to be catastrophic for these communities which are among the largest in Aberdeen.
“I’m disgusted at this decision from Spar which is abandoning some of the most vulnerable citizens in our city at a time of need during the pandemic.
“It’s quite evident that Spar is turning its back on residents who also shop there which is appalling.
“There is a real risk that Aberdeen will be left with only a couple of Post Offices if these closures continue to happen across the city.
“I will be writing to Spar and the Post Office demanding an urgent review of its business arrangements so these closures don’t happen and branches like these can be saved.”
Another blow for communities
Some of the stores, such as Old Aberdeen, are located in communities which have recently lost their last bank following a raft of closures by TSB.
One campaigner described the counter as a “lifeline” for vulnerable residents.
Aberdeen Donside MSP Jackie Dunbar – whose constituency is home to the Clifton Road and Northfield branches – said the move was a “massive blow” to the communities.
“This is a massive blow from Spar and will affect some of the poorest areas in Aberdeen where folk will not necessarily be able to afford to travel to an alternative location,” she said.
“I will be offering my support to Post Office to ensure alternative locations can be found to ensure the Post Office services are available in our communities moving forward.”
Chain plans to ‘change services’
C. J. Lang, which operates Spar’s stores in Scotland, wrote to stakeholders including the Evening Express and Press and Journal revealing the news.
The firm’s chief executive Colin McLean wrote that the decision was taken because of the need to “change the services” on offer due to “pressures on retail outlets”.
We asked for more information on what had led to the closures and how services would be changed, but did not receive a response.
A total of 31 stores will be affected across Scotland, with closures to take place later this summer.
A spokesman for Spar said: “To ensure our continued operation in communities across the region, 31 stores will no longer be able to offer Post Office services.
“This decision has been carefully considered and comes after 18 months of negotiations with Post Office Limited.
“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.”
Post Office ‘worked to keep counters open’
Bosses at Post Office said they had attempted to keep branches open and were “disappointed” by the decision.
“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,” a spokesman said.
“We have worked closely with Spar Scotland to help keep open essential Post Office services for their customers.
“At certain locations, there are nearby alternative Post Office branches.
“But we recognise that for some particularly older people they may not be easily accessible.
“We will look for replacement solutions both on a temporary or permanent basis for those branches that close.
“We are awaiting formal confirmation about the timescales for the affected branches before we inform local communities impacted.”