[holding answer 12 January 2009]: We concluded that the contract for the Post Office card account should be awarded to the Post Office without completing the tender process. In reaching that conclusion, we took into account that the Post Office card account is a simple product—essentially a means of paying benefit—and that it provides an important social service to vulnerable people, particularly in rural and deprived urban areas. Direct debits, and other additional functionality, are already available through the basic bank accounts which can be accessed at Post Office branches. And we hope, over time, that the Post Office will be able to develop accounts with wider features, on a commercial basis.
[holding answer 19 January 2009]: Good progress is being made with both parties working together towards finalising the terms and conditions of the new Post Office card account contract. Negotiations will be concluded as soon as possible.
We hope that, subject to contractual discussions with Post Office Ltd., the new product will offer some enhancements to the existing Post Office card account. These should include: a simpler opening process for customers; faster clearance of payments into an account; access via cash machines; and the ability to correct mistakes, for example if the customer withdraws more than they intended to and wants the money immediately put back into their account.