Rural post offices should be empowered to offer more financial services to businesses and individuals, one postmaster said this week.
Robert Wilson from Kyle of Lochalsh, who operates the local branch, told the Free Press that such is demand for services he could open a second counter on the premises. So far Post Office Ltd have refused to agree to an additional counter, which would need extra computer equipment and staffing.
While acknowledging that the loss of the local Royal Bank of Scotland branch and Bank of Scotland mobile service has been a “massive loss for the area”, Mr Wilson took issue with recent comments by Broadford and Strath Community Council chairman that local post offices “just don’t have the capacity” for things like bar takings.
He told the Free Press: “I’m sure I speak for other postmasters in the area when I say that Hamish is somewhat misinformed. Here in Kyle, for example, we already have numerous business customers who pay in their shop and bar takings on a regular basis.
“We also offer a change facility for those customers who need a coin float, can accept cheque pay-ins, provide fee-free cash withdrawals and account balance enquiries. Cash paid in over the counter using a debit card is credited to the customer’s account immediately.
“It’s regrettable that Bank of Scotland have withdrawn their mobile banking service, but local post office branches are ready and willing to assist both business and private customers with their day to day banking needs. Come and see us – you’ll find us friendly, helpful and with all the capacity you need!”
Mr Wilson also said that creating a “banking hub” in the post office was also being considered by POL, and the branch in Portree can fast-track passport applications and “generate a lead” for partner banks to follow up for basic financial services, though he didn’t know if he was going to be able to offer any of those services.
He hoped that POL would invest more in the retail side of the branch which is, like many post offices, also a general store.
In response, a spokeswoman for POL would not be drawn on any plans to expand the range of services on offer in Kyle.
She added: “We know that our Kyle of Lochalsh branch can be quite busy at times. We keep under regular review what further support or additional services can be provided at the branch. Post Offices offer everyday banking on behalf of all the major High Street banks.
“Customers of the bank branch that has closed nearby can continue to withdraw and deposit their cash at Kyle of Lochalsh branch.
“In addition to cash services, customers and local residents can also deposit cheques and check their balance at the counter. Post Offices cannot offer services beyond everyday banking as we do not hold customer’s bank account details.
“For things like savings, mortgages and loans, local residents will need to continue to do that with their bank provider.”
Article by Michael Russell, image by Willie Urquhart.