Post Office Ltd

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Post Office Ltd
State-owned limited company
Industry Postal service
Founded 1986
Headquarters Post Office Ltd, Finsbury Dials, 20 Finsbury Street, London, EC2Y 9AQ
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Paula Vennells, Chief Executive
Owner HM Government
Number of employees
7,798[1]
Parent Postal Services Holding Company Limited
Website www.postoffice.co.uk

Post Office Ltd, (Scottish Gaelic: Oifis a'phuist, Welsh: Swyddfa’r Post), 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 British Government through Postal Services Holding Company Limited, which also holds the government's stake in Royal Mail plc.[2]

History[edit]

Post Office branches, along with the Royal Mail delivery service, were 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.

A branch of W H Smith in Hounslow, incorporating a post office

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 WHSmith. This followed a trial of six Post Office outlets in WHSmith stores. WHSmith 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).[5]

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.[6]

As part of the Postal Services Act 2011, Post Office Ltd became independent of Royal Mail Group on 1 April 2012.[7] A ten-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.[8] The Act also contained the option for Post Office Ltd to become a mutual organisation in the future.[9]

On 8 February 2013, Post Office Ltd announced it was planning to move around seventy 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.[10]

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.[11]

Services[edit]

The Post Office in Oxford, UK
The central Post Office in Otley, West Yorkshire

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.[citation needed] In some villages an outreach service is provided in village halls or shops. There are also "mobile post offices" using converted vans which travel between rural areas.[12][13]

Many post offices are shut on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Postal services[edit]

Interior of a post office, showing available merchandise

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.

Financial services[edit]

Main article: Post Office Money

The Post Office provides credit cards, current accounts, insurance products, mortgages and personal loans through the Post Office Money umbrella brand which was launched in 2015. Most Post Office Money branded products are provided by Bank of Ireland (UK) plc with Post Office Ltd asting as an appointed representative and credit broker.

Branch banking[edit]

A mobile Post Office in Borrowby, North Yorkshire.

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.

Business banking services are also offered, mainly through Santander (the successor to Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, prior to that the Post Office Girobank).

Bill payments[edit]

Post Office in Corsham, Wiltshire

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.[14] 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.

Telephony[edit]

The Post Office operates as a provider of a home landline telephone service (branded as Post Office HomePhone) and has recently added broadband internet to its portfolio.

Mobile phone E Top-up is available on behalf of most networks. Post Office branded prepay phonecards are available, offering potential savings particularly on international call rates.

Government services[edit]

A check-and-send service is available for HM Passport Office and the Post Office used to do a check and send with DVLA (for the photocard driving licence). some Post Office branches now offer a photocard driving licence renewal service in.[15] 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[edit]

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.

Other services[edit]

Post Offices not open to the public[edit]

Seven post office branches are not open to the public:[16]

Controversies[edit]

Horizon payment system errors[edit]

In April, 2015, the BBC described a confidential report that alleged that the Post Office had made 'failings'.[17] The article claimed that an independent investigation by forensic accountants Second Sight had found that the Post Office had failed to identify the root cause of the accounting shortfalls in many cases before launching court proceedings against sub-postmasters.[18] The shortfalls could have been caused by criminals using malicious software, by IT systems or by human error, the report said. An earlier article[19] by the BBC had claimed that a confidential report contained allegations that the Post Office had refused to hand over documents that the accountants felt they needed to investigate properly, that training was not good enough, that equipment was outdated, and that power cuts and communication problems had made things worse. The Post Office has claimed that their system was not at fault.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Post Office Network Report 2012" (PDF). The Post Office. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Policy: Ensuring the future of the universal postal service and Post Office network services". GOV.uk. 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "Company Details: Post Office Ltd". Companies House. 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  4. ^ [1], The Times article analysing Post Office losses.
  5. ^ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtrdind/593/593.pdf
  6. ^ "Future strategy". bis.gov.uk. 
  7. ^ 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 
  8. ^ Hope, Christopher (24 January 2012). "Fear of mass post office closures averted as Royal Mail agrees 10 year lifeline". The Telegraph. 
  9. ^ Building a Mutual Post Office Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (retrieved 8 December 2012)
  10. ^ "Up to 70 Crown post offices to be moved into shops". BBC News. 
  11. ^ "Post Office secures additional government investment to complete branch modernisation". bis.gov.uk. 
  12. ^ http://www.royalmail.com/personal/help-and-support/Post-Office-mobile-service
  13. ^ Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/61649287@N03/6296006870/
  14. ^ http://www.copy-house.co.uk/downloads/pdf/al_billpaybrochure.pdf
  15. ^ http://www.postoffice.co.uk/uk-driving-licence-photocard-renewal
  16. ^ http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/380/response/21431/attach/2/Office%20List%20210309.xls
  17. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32377013
  18. ^ http://becarefulwhatyouwishfornickwallis.blogspot.co.uk/
  19. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29130897

External links[edit]