The Petition of residents of Acocks Green and customers of the Post Office in Acocks Green and others,
Declares that the Petitioners oppose the proposed move of Acocks Green's Post Office branch from 1100 Warwick Road to 1131 Warwick Road; further that the proposed new location has fewer serving hatches, a significantly narrower pavement and, unlike the current location, no canopy above the pavement for when customers have to queue; and further that the Petitioners are concerned about the viability of the new host company and its store, and therefore the long term security of the branch.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to listen to calls for the Post Office to reject the current proposals for the movement of the Acocks Green Post Office and seek alternative, more appropriate proposals.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by John Hemming, Official Report, 3 November 2014; Vol. 587, c. 628.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:
The Government note the views of residents who access Post Office services at Acocks Green Post Office, 1100 Warwick Road, which is currently directly operated by Post Office Ltd and is known as a Crown branch.
The Government note that the implementation of the Post Office’s Crown Transformation Programme is an operational matter which is the responsibility of senior management at Post Office Ltd. The Government, as shareholders, do not play any role in decisions relating to individual post office branches. In considering the future provision of Post Office services at Acocks Green, it is important to note the wider context of Post Office Ltd’s proposals to franchise 58 Crown post offices and to merge or relocate a small number of other Crown branches.
The Government note that the 2010 spending review contained a clear commitment to modernising the Post Office network and safeguarding its future, and the Government have allocated £2 billion of funding since 2010 to provide for significant investment across the Post Office network. A condition of this funding package requires Post Office Ltd to continue to maintain a network of at least 11,500 branches, to comply fully with the access criteria, and with no programme of branch closures.
The Government note that the branches of the Crown network have incurred heavy and historic losses, totalling £26 million in the company’s last reported full financial year. Eliminating these Crown losses is a key element of Post Office Ltd’s strategy to provide for the long-term sustainable future of the network, and the Government support the business in delivering that strategy.
The Government note that the current losses incurred by the Crown network contribute heavily to the losses sustained by the network as a whole and this is not sustainable. No business, including the Post Office, can continue with a situation where some of its high street branches cost substantially more to run than they generate in revenues. In the case of the Acocks Green branch it costs £1.70 for every £1 of income it generates.
The Government note that within its broader strategy for eliminating these unsustainable losses and achieving break even for the Crown network by 2015, Post Office Ltd has identified a group of branches where it sees no prospect of eliminating the losses at a local level under the current operating and cost structure. The precise reasons will vary from location to location but commonly include factors such as high property costs and sub-optimal location to attract the necessary increase in custom and business to make them profitable.
The Government note that Post Office Ltd has however made it clear that, under each franchise proposal, the full range of post office services would continue to be available in close proximity to the existing Crown branch; and, in the event that a suitable new retail partner cannot be found, Post Office Ltd has given a commitment that post office services will be retained within the area. Furthermore, before any changes are made to the existing service provision, Post Office Ltd undertakes a local public consultation under the terms of a code of practice agreed between the Post Office Ltd and Citizens Advice. The public consultation process focuses on specific and detailed proposals for relocating the service provision, including such matters as ease of access, and responses are carefully considered by Post Office Ltd before a final decision is reached. It is noted that Post Office Ltd held a local consultation on its proposals regarding Acocks Green post office, which was open for comment between 24 September and 5 November, in accordance with the code of practice. Post Office Ltd is considering the responses received before making a decision.
The Government note that Post Office Ltd’s proposals for Acocks Green post office would see opening hours extended by over 20 hours a week providing greater accessibility and enhanced convenience for customers in a fully modernised retail environment.