£1.3bn investment to 'transform' Post Office announced

 

A £1.3 billion investment in the Post Office was announced today, with the aim of "transforming" thousands of branches, including longer opening hours.

Around 6,000 post offices will be converted into more modern branches over the next three years in what was described as a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to revitalise the network.

The Government repeated its pledge that no more post offices will close, but the postal workers' union warned that making wholesale changes to the network was a "major gamble" and involved "downgrading" some branches.

The Post Office said all its 11,800 branches will benefit directly or indirectly from the investment, which is subject to European Union state aid clearance.

Almost half of post offices will convert to a "new operating model", covering either larger branches, which will offer extended opening hours, or "local style" offices, where a post office counter will operate inside a convenience-type store, also with longer hours.

Subpostmasters who convert to a main style branch will be offered up to £45,000 to help the change, while those opting for a local style will have access to investment of up to £10,000.

The programme was aimed at making the post office more self-sustaining and less dependent on subsidies, said the post office, adding that the number of weekly visits to offices had fallen from 28 million to 20 million in the past 12 years.

The £1.3 billion was announced by the Government in 2010, but this is the first time details have been given on how the money will be spent.

Paula Vennells, chief executive officer of Post Office Ltd, said: "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Post Office - a chance to revitalise the network and allow it to meet the needs of 21st century customers and communities.

"This major investment will help Post Office Ltd address changing customer needs by revitalising the network, with extended opening hours and a better experience for our customers."

Postal Affairs Minister Norman Lamb said: "Post Offices are at the heart of many of our communities, providing much needed services. This Government has made a commitment that there will be no closure programme and invested £1.34 billion to secure the long term future of the Post Office.

"However, change is needed to secure the long term future of post offices. Pilot schemes are showing the new 'locals' and 'mains' models are popular with consumers and subpostmasters, so I am pleased that Post Office Ltd are putting in place another 6,000 of these post offices over the next three years. The new models will make the network more financially viable and give customers what they want when they want it."

George Thomson, General Secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters, said: "This investment will bring significant benefits to customers, communities and local businesses right across the UK. It provides a great opportunity for thousands of subpostmasters to modernise their post offices creating an improved, more sustainable network.

"I believe the significant commitment from the UK Government will help secure Post Office branches at the heart of our communities for the long term."

Communication Workers Union general secretary Billy Hayes said: "The Post Office is taking a major gamble with our postal service and the livelihoods of postmasters with today's announcement - which is deeply one-sided and full of spin. The voice of customers and postmasters is missing and they will bear the brunt of failures in the post office network.

"There are serious flaws with the downgraded locals model which deny services to customers - not even the ability to post parcels in many cases - while only making them available at tills in convenience stores and petrol stations.

"There comes a point at which it's no longer a post office. To access full services people will have to travel to a Crown or main post office."

Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, said: "The post office network needs to be put on a firm footing for the future, so it can continue to serve communities who rely on their local post office. Many post offices are economically unsustainable and the network as a whole needs improvement and investment.

"The scale of the task is considerable, and it is both an enormous opportunity and challenge for Post Office Limited. These huge changes will affect over half the post offices in the country and the people who use them. What will matter to customers is that this programme delivers improvements and provides a sustainable and accessible local network which meets their needs."

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: "While the Countryside Alliance welcomes the large new investment, we are concerned that the rollout of the Post Office Locals model could see many rural communities lose their post office, or see a significant reduction in the number of services to which they have access, such as manual cash deposits and withdrawals, manual bill payment services and on-demand foreign currency.

"People living in the countryside have to travel much further to access banks, building societies and cash points. Our greatest fear is that these changes will leave many of the most vulnerable members of society in rural areas unable to access basic services, transforming vast swathes of the countryside into a desert for financial services.

"And we again question whether the changes announced today are consistent with the Coalition's pledge to make the Post Office the front office for government."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map