Details of a £20 million fund aimed at building the businesses of crucial Post Office services in villages and remote communities have been announced.
The new Community Branch Fund is being created to help secure the long term future of branches which have become the crucial "last shops" in their area, offering millions of people unrivalled and easy access to services such as mails and high street banking.
The Post Office, which has the largest retail network in the UK with more than 11,500 branches and a growing online presence, was boosted last year by a further £640 million commitment from the Government.
The investment is supporting a transformation of the business which has already seen more than 2,200 branches revamped with longer opening hours and more modern environments. The change has led to more than 60,000 extra opening hours for customers.
The Post Office has also embarked on an ambitious growth strategy which will see it build its financial and home services businesses while underpinning its status as number one mails retailer.
The launch of the Community Branch Fund, part of the £640m package announced last year, is central to the business's 2020 strategy.
Around 3,400 branches across the UK where the Post Office is the only or last shop in the community will be able to apply for valuable support from the new community fund which opens for applications in the next few weeks.
It supports the Post Office's underlying purpose as a business, that of connecting all communities with products and services, whether in busy city centres or rural areas. This purpose has now been defined in a statement drawn up after consultation with customers, staff and subpostmasters following the Government's Building a Mutual Post Office consultation.
The publication of the Post Office’s public purpose is another step towards creating the conditions which could lead to the mutualisation of the Post Office. Further information on this and milestones towards mutualisation have also been published today.
Paula Vennells, chief executive of the Post Office, said: "The Post Office sits like no other organisation at the heart of thousands of communities across the UK. As a commercial business with a powerful public purpose, the Community Branch Fund demonstrates our commitment to these customers.
"Where many organisations are withdrawing from communities we are staying supporting all our customers wherever they are.
"We are changing to undergo the biggest transformation in our 370-year history. Customers are already seeing modernised branches with longer opening hours and developments such as self-service kiosks which are reducing waiting times, plus new products such current accounts and mortgages."
For Further Information:
Nina Arnott or Sarah Womack
Tel: 0782 5816057
COMMUNITY BRANCH FUND
By applying to the fund, Subpostmasters will have the opportunity to make a case for funding to support the growth of their business and deliver benefits to customers to help the long-term sustainability of their branch. Every Community Branch will be able to apply to the Fund with investment being allocated on an individual basis
A focus for investment will be activity that helps grow business for the branch and which benefits its local customers. Together this will help the future sustainability of the Post Office in the local community.
PUBLIC PURPOSE STATEMENT
The Post Office's public purpose statement is: "The Post Office is unique; a commercial business set apart by its public purpose. We are driven by a belief in the importance of connecting communities and enhancing the powerful role they play in all our lives. We will stay true to this commitment by delivering key products and outstanding customer service through our unrivalled local presence across the UK”.
The purpose statement was highlighted as a necessary precursor to mutualisation on the Government's ‘Building a Mutual Post Office’ consultation in 2011. Under the plans, the Post Office set up a Stakeholder Forum, made up of stakeholders including the National Federation of Subpostmasters, the Communication Workers union, the BBC, British Youth Council and the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP), to define the public purpose of the business. It subsequently consulted on the statement with customers, staff, subpostmasters, other stakeholders and the public.
The Post Office has set out four milestones which would need to be achieved in order to create the opportunity for mutualisation of the business.
- Commercial sustainability must be achieved, building on the successful delivery of our new strategy. This will mean developing a business with a track record of revenue and profit growth and positive cashflow generation which is able to operate wholly independently.
- Linked to this, a clear funding relationship with Government will be defined and maintained. Such funding will be materially lower than today and the relationship will need to provide the Post Office with improved long-term certainty and visibility as to its future
- The Post Office will deliver measurable success in embedding its purpose statement within the business and in meeting the standards it sets.
- A culture of mutual engagement will be further developed, demonstrated by strong performance in key engagement measures. This will help to encourage new behaviours that support a broad commitment across the business to mutual ways of working: approaches which the business is adopting regardless of its future ownership model.
About Post Office:
Post Office Limited has an unrivalled national network of over 11,500 branches across the UK, more than all the high street banks combined, and sits at the heart of many communities across the country. The Post Office has made a commitment to no more branch closure programmes. It provides around 170 different services and products spanning financial services including savings, insurance, loans, mortgages and credit cards. Post Office also offers Government services; telephony; foreign currency; travel insurance and mail services.
For more information, visit www.postoffice.co.uk
About the Post Office
The Post Office (Post Office Limited) has an unrivalled national network of over 11,500 branches across the UK, more than all the high street banks combined, and sits at the heart of communities in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The Post Office has made a commitment to maintaining its network of branches at its current size and reach. It provides around 170 different products and services spanning financial services including savings, insurance, loans, mortgages and credit cards; Government services; telephony; foreign currency; travel insurance and mail services.
The Post Office serves over 17 million customers a week and a third of small businesses. Some 99.7% of the total population live within three miles of a post office and over 97% live with one mile of a post office. For many rural communities, the post office is the only retail outlet. Post Offices branches remain highly valued and trusted, and are the focal point of many communities. For more information, visit http://www.postoffice.co.uk/.
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