Letter: How Britain's post office network has shrunk

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his letter (25 February) Mike Flanagan, Network Director of Post Office Counters Limited (POCL), defends POCL's network conversion policies. For the most part, I agree with what he says. However, he claims that it is 'absolute nonsense to suggest we are closing post offices'.

Between December 1988 and March 1993 the size of the nationwide network of post offices was reduced by some 917 outlets to 19,877 offices. In 1992/93 the net decline in network size was 209 outlets, which included 236 full- time rural sub-offices closed for force majeure reasons.

POCL's declared policy is not to close rural offices and it has achieved some limited success in setting up replacement part-time Community Offices or persuading sub-postmasters to provide 'satellite' services from neighbouring villages.

The situation in urban areas is different. POCL considers that there is an over-provision of town sub-offices and the policy here is to close offices in areas of over-provision whenever the opportunity arises. During 1992/93, 47 such offices were closed under this policy.

POCL argue that such closures create financial head-room which helps to meet the costs (estimated to be around pounds 30m annually), of subsidising the loss-making rural network. Siting post offices in supermarkets also helps to reduce POCL's costs, but can put some existing sub and Crown Offices at risk. The Post Office Users' National Council fully appreciates the intense pressures (consequent on Government financial targets) to reduce network running costs which POCL faces, and that the options open to it in meeting competitive challenges are limited.

Nevertheless, one of these options is to close town offices. It is an option which POCL has pursued and will no doubt continue to pursue, and it is not, therefore, 'absolute nonsense' to suggest that post offices are being closed.

Yours faithfully,



Post Office Users'

National Council

London, SE1

28 February