David Ward says: “This is the case for us here in East Barkwith. Today, Monday 31 October (yes Halloween), the CWU and Unite unions have called their members who work within the Post Office out on strike. I, as a self-employed subpostmaster, will NOT be on strike, but open for business as usual. But as the spotlight is on the Post Office today, I would like to take the opportunity to share with you the many problems facing post offices today.”
Oh my, it is a long list, starting with the asset stripping of the Post Office. “In the time we have had our office we have lost the telephone service (GPO now BT), TV licence renewal, green giros, Premium Bonds and other NS&I products. The Giro Bank sold to the Alliance and Leicester, now Santander. Then, of course, the Royal Mail sell off.”
To offset this, David also included a list of just some of the services he provides. It’s another long list, including banking services for most high street bank accounts, bill payment services for most utilities, council tax, phone top-ups, high street shopping vouchers, the Health Lottery and the National Lottery, and a range of postal services.
He then says subpostmasters aren’t paid properly for their work.
“Royal Mail, government, the banks, and Post Office Ltd are constantly driving down what they pay us for each transaction. In fact, they all tell us these products and services help us drive footfall through our stores, therefore allowing us the opportunity to sell items from our retail side. But many of these post office customers never actually spend anything at all in our retail stores.”
He closes with the argument that post offices are “being starved out of business”.
I put all this to the Post Office. Nick Beal, head of agents’ development & remuneration, replied: “David Ward is right to be proud of the trusted Post Office brand and the huge range of essential products we offer. The majority (97%) of branches are run on an agency basis by postmasters, most of whom are independent small business owners, who are paid a fee per transaction for banking on behalf of all the high street banks, insurance, credit cards, savings products, mortgages, travel money, bill payment, and mail services and more. We believe these fees are fair and reflect the competitive commercial environment in which the PO operates. The majority of our agency branches sit alongside and complement a retail store, enabling the retailer to maximise the profit by using the footfall across both parts of their business.
“The number of post offices has increased in the past two years as we look for areas that would benefit from a post office. So far this year 30 additional PO branches have opened in areas where the population is growing. There are more than 11,600 post office branches trading across the UK, of which nearly 7,000 have been modernised in the past four years, and the number located in c-stores has increased by one-third.
“Because the post office is open when the shop is, we are now the largest retail network open on Sundays. Branches serving communities in rural areas that are ‘the last shop in the village’ receive government funding.
“The PO has evolved and will continue to change in the future; we must look forwards not back.”