Response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee - Housing and town centres in 2030 inquiry
The increasing digitisation of communications, transactions and retail pose a risk to both high streets and post offices. But in some ways post offices are now becoming more important, particularly as banks close and people are shopping online.
There are around 11,600 post offices in the UK. They have a unique reach, penetrating high streets and town centres in all parts of the country. Post offices are widely used by both individuals and small businesses and make a significant contribution to local economies and the wellbeing of local communities. The continued growth in online retail and bank branch closures, indicate that people will continue to need post office services well into the future.
We are responding to this consultation in our capacity as the statutory consumer representative for the postal sector in England and Wales.
Our evidence shows that:
1. Post offices need to remain open and local. Post offices are extensively used by almost all individuals and small businesses, and proximity is crucial. The Government’s £370m funding to support the post office network between April 2018 and March 2021 is welcome, but the Government and Post Office Ltd must continue to ensure the post office network retains its wide geographic spread.
2. Post offices should continue to offer a wide range of services. The range of services are valued by consumers, including postal, banking, government and community services. Whilst many services are moving online, face-to-face access remains important, particularly for many of the more vulnerable members of society.
3. The Government or UK finance industry should commission research into the performance of Post Office banking services. There is an increasing reliance on post offices for day-to-day community banking services, but some stakeholders have raised concerns about the suitability of post offices in providing these services. It is important to identify and address any issues around performance and service standards and to better understand customer journeys in the context of continued bank branch closures.