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Post Offices to get 3-year conversion

Sunday 11th March 2012
Investment breakdown. Courtesy:www.bis.gov.uk/assets/.../10-1260-securing-the-post-office-network

Some £1.34bn and a three year programme is to convert 6,000 Post Offices into new, more modern branches over next three years, perhaps finally providing a communications network opportunity the Royal Mail has totally ignored for decades, and certainly promising a better retail experience with extended opening hours.

The modernisation is a move to win back people who used its branches, as customers having fallen from 28m a week in 2000 to some 20m currently. Modernising the branch network with a network subsidy, recognises the major social value that Post Offices provide to communities. The investment is also part of government commitment to no further programme of branch closes.

Between now and summer 2012, some 50 further new local and main branches will be piloted across the UK.  These new sites will complement the 177 current pilot branches and collectively help inform future roll-out plans.

Paula Vennells, CEO, Post Office Ltd and instrumental in initiating the new strategy launch on Government's Securing the Post Ofice Network in the Digital Age report 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 twenty-first century customers and communities. "

The Herald reports that it is unclear at this stage how many of the 1,427 outlets north of the Border will change. Almost half of post offices will convert either to a "main- style" branch offering extended opening hours, or a "local-style" branch in shops or garages.

These will have a post office service point on their normal retail counter, and will have longer opening hours. But local branches will not provide services, including: motor vehicle licences; passport check and send services; bureau de change and travel insurance on demand.

Subpostmasters converting to main-style branch will be offered up to £45,000 to help them change. Those opting for a local style have access to some £10,000 investment. Modernisation however is voluntary. Some 5,500 branches will not become either local or main branches but will retain their current operating mode supported by subsidy payments, reflecting their key role in UK life.

Postal Affairs Minister Norman Lamb MP said: “The pilots are showing the new ‘locals’ and ‘mains’ modelsare popular with consumers and sub postmasters.  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.” 

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