My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills has made the following statement:
The Post Office is one of the most trusted institutions in the country. It stands at the heart of communities up and down the country, offering face to face access to essential services through its network of 11,500 branches. The Government are committed to a secure and sustainable future for the Post Office network, and have committed up to £1.7 billion of funding to support the Post Office network to 2011.
The Post Office is already a successful provider of financial services. It provides a wide range of savings, loans (including mortgages), and insurance products. It is also the UK’s leading foreign exchange provider. But we want it to do more and to build on this successful platform. It is for this reason that the Prime Minister announced on 29 September that he wanted “the Post Office to play a much bigger role, bringing banking services back to the heart of people’s communities.”
To take this forward, the Government are today launching a 12-week national consultation on Post Office banking. The consultation will set out clearly what the Post Office already offers in terms of financial services; it will draw comparisons with Post Banks around the world; and it will set out the Government’s vision for Post Office banking and the values that should underpin it. These values are that Post Office banking should be universal, trusted, accessible and sustainable.
In addition, the consultation invites views on a number of proposals for new financial products that the Post Office could offer. These include: a Post Office current account, a children’s savings account to encourage saving at the Post Office from an early age, new services for small businesses including a Post Office business account, and a weekly budgeting account to allow those on low incomes to take advantage of direct debits and reduced bills.
We will be asking people whether they agree that these are the right areas to focus on and which banking services they would like to see at their local post office. This consultation sets the scene for an expansion in banking in Post Offices. It could result in important new business for our Post Offices and important new services for the public.