Who needs proper Post Offices? 2,000 to close next year.
Now that nominations have closed for Britain’s Worst Company, we can cheerfully tell you about the latest wheeze of that much loved British institution, the Post Office, knowing we cannot influence your vote in any way. After all, who but a worthy contender would wish their customers a Merry Christmas by closing 2,000 Post Office branches to replace them with crappy counters in petrol stations?
Under plans to be rolled out from June, one fifth of the current 11,500 strong branch network will be converted into new "PO Locals", which offer a downgraded service within other commercial premises. Customers will not be able to apply for driving licences, send post bulky mail overseas, pay car tax or make cash withdrawals using passbooks.
However, it seems that some complaining sorts are not altogether over the moon with the idea of replacing a fully functioning service with a pale shadow of its former self. Andy Burrowes, a self-confessed postal expert at Consumer Focus, told The Daily Telegraph: “Instead of a dedicated counter for postal transactions longstanding post office customers would be expected to queue up behind other people buying milk and crisps in order to receive their weekly pensions.” Thank goodness there are no PO Locals in porn shops is all we can say. Mr Burrowes went on to claim that “some PO Locals ran out of money, and were not be able to pay pensions and benefits, because they cannot hold as much cash as branches. This meant they had to “ration” their cash “to make sure they have got enough cash behind the till to keep them going throughout the day.”
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK, said: “Post offices are a real lifeline for many older people who use them as a 'one-stop' shop to access their pension, benefits, pay their bills, get advice and even in some cases socialise with others. It is imperative that there is as little disruption as possible to the service for older customers during this programme of conversion.”
Post Office Limited has been gradually rolling out a trial of the new service during this year. doubling the number of PO Locals from 60 earlier this year to 115 today . The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is expected to take over the running of the post office network from Royal Mail in April next year, defended the plans, saying customers would now benefit from being able to access post office services round the clock, during the hours that the convenience store or garage is open. Assuming they have any money or stamps left, of course.
A BIS spokesman said: “The Post Office network will be maintained at its current size and coverage of 11,500 outlets nationwide and strict access criteria must be met to ensure reasonable access to services for all. This is about making sure that people have access to the services they want and need from their post office, at times they want them, and making running a post office more profitable for hard working sub-postmasters.”
Sub-postmasters are being offered the equivalent of 18 months’ salary if they agree to close down or convert into a PO Local.
Still, it is really only the pensioners who will be worst affected by these changes, and let’s face it, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive anyway, so they don’t need driving licence applications or car tax renewal services. Inflation has also worn their savings down to practically nothing, so they don’t need passbook services and they may as well just redirect their pensions to the energy companies and sit at home by the two bar fire eh?