Post Office overhaul a 'major gamble'

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The Independent Online

Post Office branches will be "downgraded" as part of sweeping changes announced by the Government, unions have warned.

Ministers said yesterday that £1.3bn would be invested in the network, and about 6,000 branches modernised. But postal unions warned that the proposals were a "major gamble" and were "deeply one-sided and full of spin".

The Postal Affairs minister, Norman Lamb, said the investment, which is subject to European Union state aid clearance, would "make the network more financially viable and give customers what they want when they want it".

Plans include saving all 11,800 branches but converting almost half to a "new operating model". Larger branches will be made bigger still and stay open longer; smaller ones will be downgraded. In some cases, a post office counter will operate inside a convenience store, also with longer hours.

Mike O'Connor, of Consumer Focus, said: "Many post offices are economically unsustainable and the network as a whole needs improvement and investment."

But Billy Hayes, leader of the Communication Workers Union, said the scheme would limit many services to "tills in convenience stores and petrol stations".