Post offices transformed: a review of the post office restructuring programme 2012-2018
The Network Transformation Programme (NTP) was part of a £2bn government funding package, designed to maintain the size of the post office network and improve its financial sustainability.
Overall, the NTP has achieved its stated aims. By the end of the programme, 2 in 3 branches had converted to new operating models integrated into retail outlets. Post office numbers remain stable and geographical coverage has been preserved. Post Office Ltd (POL) is reporting positive financial results and lower operational expenditure. Branches have been refurbished, and many offer improved accessibility, shorter queues and longer opening times.
But there are also significant challenges. New services intended to meet the needs of modern consumers have not been developed to the extent that was anticipated. And many post office operators are worried about the viability of their branches. There is also uncertainty over the future of 3,000 Community branches, and an increasing proportion of branches are operating as part-time outreach offices.
Early indications are that new branches perform broadly in line with traditional post offices. However, disabled access across the network is still patchy and product and pricing advice from staff is not always accurate. In addition, consumers cannot always access the full range of services that should be available at their local post office.
In the coming years Citizens Advice will continue to closely scrutinise the post office network to ensure it is meeting the needs of all consumers. We will monitor consumer satisfaction whilst working with POL to ensure improvements to disabled access and self service kiosks are implemented.
We will also be exploring the potential for the Post Office to develop new services, including expanded banking and parcel services and allowing homeless people to access their post through their local post office.