Post Office Ltd
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012)|
|Type||State-owned limited company|
|Headquarters||148 Old Street, London EC1V 9HQ|
|Area served||United Kingdom|
|Key people||Paula Vennels, Managing Director|
|Parent||Postal Services Holding Company Limited|
Post Office Ltd is a retail post office company in the United Kingdom that provides a wide range of products including postage stamps and banking to the public through its nationwide network of post office branches. The company is owned by the UK Government through Postal Services Holding Company Limited, which also holds the government's stake in Royal Mail plc.
The Post Office, along with postal service Royal Mail, was formerly part of the General Post Office. Post Office Counters Ltd was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail in 1986, becoming Post Office Ltd in 2001.
Post Office Ltd has in recent years announced losses; a reported £102 million in 2006. This has raised many concerns in the media regarding Post Office Ltd's ability as a company to operate efficiently. Plans to cut the £150m-a-year subsidy for rural post offices led to the announcement that 2,500 local Post Offices were to be closed. This announcement resulted in a backlash from local communities that relied on the service.
In 2007, the government gave a £1.7 billion subsidy to Royal Mail Group so that it could turn a profit by 2011. This was to be used to invest across the whole network of Royal Mail, Post Office Ltd and Parcelforce. 85 Crown Post Offices were closed, 70 of which were sold to W H Smith. This followed a trial of six Post Office outlets in W H Smith stores. W H Smith was expected to make up to £2.5 million extra in annual profit. 2,500 sub-Post Offices closed between 2008 and 2009. Redundancy packages were provided from public funding, (subpostmasters were paid over 20 months salary, roughly £65,000 each).
In November 2010, the government committed £1.34 billion of funding up to 2015 to Post Office Ltd to enable it to modernise the Post Office network.
As part of the Postal Services Act 2011, Post Office Ltd became independent of Royal Mail Group on 1 April 2012. A 10-year inter-business agreement was signed between the two companies to allow Post Offices to continue issuing stamps and handling letters and parcels for Royal Mail. The Act also contained the option for Post Office Ltd to become a mutual organisation in the future.
On 8 February 2013, Post Office Ltd announced it was planning to move around 70 of its Crown Post Offices into shops. This would reduce the Crown network, which it stated was losing £40 million a year, to around 300.
On 27 November 2013, the government committed an additional £640 million of funding for 2015 to 2018 to allow Post Office Ltd to complete its network modernisation.
There are currently around 11,500 Post Office branches across the UK, of which 300 are directly managed by Post Office Ltd (known as Crown Offices). The majority of other branches are either run by various franchise partners or local subpostmaster or operators (who may be members of the National Federation of SubPostmasters or the CWU Postmasters Branch), as "sub-postoffices".
The Post Office has a wide variety of services throughout the network of branches. Products and services available vary throughout the network; main post offices generally provide the full range of services.
In towns, Post Offices are usually open from around 09:00 to 17:30 from Monday to Friday and from 09:00 to 12:30 on Saturday. In some country areas, opening hours are much shorter - perhaps only four hours per week. In some villages an outreach service is provided, this can be in a van, village hall, village shop etc. Most Post Offices are shut on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The Post Office provides information on services and accepts postal items and payment on behalf of the two collection and delivery divisions of Royal Mail Group, Royal Mail and Parcelforce. These include a variety of ordinary and guaranteed services both for delivery within the United Kingdom and to international destinations. Postage stamps (including commemorative stamps and other philatelic items) are sold, while applications for redirection of mail are accepted on behalf of Royal Mail.
Post Office Local Collect is a scheme whereby undelivered mail can be redirected at customer request to a post office for convenient collection. Poste restante mail can also be held for collection by people travelling.
Personal banking services are offered on behalf of a number of "partner banks" that the Post Office has agreements with. Although different services are available on behalf of different institutions, these may include cash withdrawals, paying in cash and cheques, balance enquiries and cheque encashment. Some post offices also have cash machines, mainly provided by Bank of Ireland.
The Post Office Card Account is a basic bank account allowing customers to collect benefit payments. Most other basic accounts can also be accessed through post offices. The Card Account cannot be accessed anywhere other than a Post Office Counter or ATM at a Post Office. These accounts are limited to Department of Work & Pensions deposits of benefit payments and HMRC Tax Credits/Child Benefit. Housing Benefit from the local Council for example, must be paid elsewhere. If the account remains dormant for one year, it is closed. These bank accounts are run by J.P. Morgan Europe Ltd on behalf of the Post Office. To open an account, you must be in receipt of benefits and a referral is made via the Jobcentre Plus.
The Post Office has long been an agent for National Savings and Investments (NS&I), which was originally the Post Office Savings Bank but is now a wholly separate institution. Since November 2011, only Premium Bonds can be bought in Post Offices; all other products are available by telephone, online and post.
In recent years the Post Office has launched its own range of branded savings products, which are sometimes in competition with those offered by NS&I. The most recently introduced, in September 2008, is a Post Office ISA. Also on offer is an instant access account (Instant Saver), while issues of two fixed term investments (Five Year Saver and Growth Bond) are periodically available. The Post Office are also a provider for the Child Trust Fund.
Insurance and financial services
The Post Office is now seeking to establish itself as a financial service provider and provides a number of branded insurance products including for cars, vans and motorbikes; home insurance (buildings and/or contents); pet insurance and travel insurance. Life insurance, over 50s life cover and lifestyle protection insurance are also available.
The Post Office is now offering itself as a mortgage lender and also offers personal loans, although the latter are now marketed purely through the company's website and not through the branch network. The first loans, provided by Bank of Ireland, launched in 2004.
A number of bill payments can be accepted on behalf of a variety of organisations including utilities, local authorities and others. These can be in the form of automated payments (barcoded bills, swipe cards, key charging) or manual transactions through the Alliance & Leicester Transcash system. The name Transcash was formerly used by Girobank. The Transcash service is not advertised and a search for "Transcash" on the Post Office website returns no results. However, Transcash forms (still marked "Girobank") were still available at Post Office counters in October 2010.
A Check and send service is available for the government department HM Passport Office and the Post Office used to do a check and send with DVLA (for the photocard driving licence), they now offer a photocard driving license renewal service in some Post Office's around the country. Fishing licences are issued on behalf of the Environment Agency from branches in England and Wales. Selected branches issue international driving permits.
Post Office Saving Stamps
Post Office savings stamps were first introduced by Henry Fawcett in the 1880s but were phased out in the 1960s. These were re-introduced in August 2004 because of consumer demand. In 2010 saving stamps were withdrawn and replaced by the Budget Card. In 2011 it was announced that Post Office saving stamps would have to be redeemed by 28 February 2011, although any customers who missed the deadline can post their saving stamps to a central Post Office location where the stamps will be validated. A payout letter will be sent to the customer that can be exchanged for cash at their local branch (ID required).
- National Lottery games and scratchcards
- Sale and encashment of postal orders
- Foreign currency exchange and Travel Money Card
- Sales of gift vouchers redeemable at certain high street merchants
- Fast drop
- Drop and Go
Post Offices not open to the public
Six post office branches are not open to the public:
- Court (Buckingham Palace)
- House of Commons
- Portcullis House
- Royal Automobile Club, 89 Pall Mall, London
- The Scottish Parliament
- Windsor Castle
- "The Post Office Network Report 2012". The Post Office. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Policy: Ensuring the future of the universal postal service and Post Office network services". GOV.uk. 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Company Details: Post Office Ltd". Companies House. 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- , The Times article analysing Post Office losses.
- "Future strategy". bis.gov.uk.
- Mackie, Lindsey; Glasman, Maurice (30 March 2012). "This cynical Royal Mail and Post Office divorce will bring only misery". The Guardian (London: GMG). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 5 September 2012. "Post Office Ltd"
- Hope, Christopher (24 January 2012). "Fear of mass post office closures averted as Royal Mail agrees 10 year lifeline". The Telegraph.
- Building a Mutual Post Office Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (retrieved 8 December 2012)
- "Up to 70 Crown post offices to be moved into shops". BBC News.
- "Post Office secures additional government investment to complete branch modernisation". bis.gov.uk.
- "Ns&I - Ns&I Announces Latest Changes As Part Of Its Five Year Modernisation Programme". NS&I. 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
- Hazell, Tony (3 September 2008). "Sweetener boosts Post Office Isa". thisismoney.co.uk. Daily Mail Group. Retrieved 3 September 2008.
- "Post Office ready to deliver loan service". The Scotsman. 29 March 2004. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Post Office – official site
- Postwatch – the watchdog for postal services
- Post Office Shop – the official online shop