I have a long involvement in postal matters. For 24 years, i was national official with a trade union representing postal works and then, after I left the union, I spent 6 years serving on the Boards of Postwatch and then Consumer Focus which have been the statutory consumer bodies on postal issues. Although I am no longer on the Board of Consumer Focus, I continue to chair the organisation’s Post Offices Advisory Group.
When I first became involved in the post office netwoek, post offices received some 28 million visits a week. That figure is now down to less than 20 million a week. Many young people never visit a post office.
So this summer sees the beginning of the Post Office’s Network Transformation. More than half of traditional sub post offices will convert to new operating models as part of the largest set of planned changes in the Post Office’s history.
By 2015, out of the total 11,800 branches, around 4,000 larger and busier branches will be converted into Post Office Mains and a further 2,000 sub post offices will be converted into Post Office Locals.
Both models will offer extended opening hours. However, Post Office Mains will provide a fuller range of products and services. Post Office Locals will offer consumers a more restricted range of products and services, delivered by trained shop staff from the main counter of retail outlets such as convenience stores and petrol stations.
Following the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ consultation, the Government plans to transfer ownership of the Post Office into a mutual model, such as a co-operative which is owned by and run for the benefit of, current and future members. In the case of a mutual Post Office, this will include operators, staff and consumers.
The Government is suggesting strong consumer representation on the governing body and legislation to police the process of mutualisation. It is important to note that mutualisation will only happen when the network is on a more stable footing and that operators will only be able to share in profits once reinvestment in the network has been prioritised.