TWO of West Somerset’s larger communities have been left shocked at the sudden loss of their Post Offices.

The Post Offices in Watchet and Alcombe had survived a scare earlier this year when several others across the district closed.

But now postmasters Emily and Mark Richards-Littlefield have announced that after seven years they are closing their Alcombe News business, which houses the postal service, on Saturday (September 9).

And because they had been ‘stewarding’ Watchet’s Post Office counter it meant the harbour town also lost its postal services with immediate effect until a new postmaster could be trained.

The news prompted West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger to ask for an urgent meeting with Post Office Counters Ltd about the way Mr and Mrs Richards-Littlefield had been forced to give up.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said there had been a Post Office in Alcombe for nearly a century and its disappearance would leave thousands of local people reliant on the one inside Minehead’s Co-op supermarket.

He said that was unacceptable, as waiting times for service at the Minehead counters were already far too long.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “One of the most frequently-heard complaints about the place is the length of time it takes to get served, and that was with the Alcombe office available to relieve some of the pressure.

“This closure is going to cause a great many local people a great deal of inconvenience, and neither should we forget that the Co-op has already announced plans to redevelop its Minehead site for housing and a small convenience store.

“The Alcombe Post Office is a valued local institution and reportedly very well used.

“What I find particularly alarming is the lack of notice about the closure and this one of the matters I intend to raise with Post Office Counters.”

Mrs Richards-Littlefield told Watchet residents via social media: “To put any rumours to bed, this is neither the fault of the current business or any employee.”

She hoped the community continued to support the Swain Street business as owner Alfie Wright had been ‘left in a difficult position through no fault of his own’, and that the Post Office would allow him to continue with his application to be postmaster.

Former Watchet Post Office worker Kayla Garner said the retail side of the business was still open and the premises would not be shut.

Ms Garner said: “I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and I personally am sorry for the outcome of Watchet Post Office.

“I loved my job and I had the tremendous pleasure of serving each and every one of you for the four years I worked there.”

Mrs Richards-Littlefield said she sincerely regretted having to announce that Alcombe News was closing permanently on Saturday.

She said: “Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate, ever-increasing costs, and the fact that remuneration for Post Office services has failed to rise in line with inflation, the running of Alcombe News has become increasingly difficult.

“The retail has from the beginning been supporting the existence of the Post Office and it gas got to the point where we cannot carry on like that.”

Mrs Richards-Littlefield said earnings for Post Office work was still at the same level as six years ago, because although bosses had awarded themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds in bonuses, they had not increased remuneration for postmasters.

She said: “They do not seem to be the least bit bothered. The Post Office is just not interested. There is very little support.

“We did not want to close but we have had to do so.”

Mrs Richards-Littlefield said she and her husband would miss their customers, who had been ‘absolutely wonderful, every single one of them’.

A Post Office spokesperson said service provision for Alcombe was being reviewed, and also confirmed a retailer was interested in the Watchet position.

  • In May of this year, Carhampton, Exford, Lydeard St Lawrence, and Winsford all lost their Post Offices, while opening hours were reduced in Watchet and Alcombe.

  • Since then, Kilve Post Office has been put up for sale, while the postmaster in Nether Stowey is also looking to sell up in order to retire.