What Post Office changes mean for you
The question is what will happen to your local post office, and what it means for you?
The changesThe basic plan is to get post offices to choose to run as one of two models - known as main and local. The plan is for 2,000 of them to be converted to Post Office Local branches, which will mostly mean shifting into existing shop premises. This is the model which involves significant change, because it essentially becomes just another service the shop offers. Most will be part of a convenience store, but they may also be run out of pubs or petrol stations.
On the plus side, they'll adopt the opening hours of the shop, which is handy. On the downside, they won't offer every Post Office service, so for example, you won't be able to renew your passport or driving licence. Plus, you'll be served by shop staff rather than post office staff, so they won't be experts in post office services.
Meanwhile, 4,000 will be converted to Post Office Mains. Some of these will also be relocated in an existing shop (but from a stand-alone counter with its own opening hours), but some will stay in their own premises. They'll run the full range of services, and will differ slightly from existing post offices with new fangled queue reduction systems and in some cases longer opening hours.
The processThe process is starting slowly. There are currently 161 local post offices and 16 main ones being piloted, and the government will launch 50 more of each to extend the pilot by the summer. If it goes well, the Government plans to pump in £1.34 billion to make it a reality.
In all, it's a bold attempt to hang onto the network. However, long-term survival is not guaranteed. Once a Post Office opts for one of the two new models, they will no longer get a guaranteed payment from the government - their income will depend on the business they generate. There are concerns, therefore, that those that prove unpopular will drop their postal services, and the network will die a death by a thousand cuts.
What will happen to your post office?This is basically up to your local manager. They can opt for either of the two new models. Alternatively, they could decide to stick with the model they have at the moment - and they'll keep getting subsidies from the government - at least for now. The early estimates expect about half of all post offices in the network to sign up to one of the new models.
Consumer Focus will be keeping a close eye on the Post Offices, and is insisting that there should be local consultation when a Post Office is changed. This should mean that you can have your say on whether you like the idea of more convenient opening hours, or whether you have concerns abut a publican taking charge of your parcels.
But what do you think? Do you like the idea of the new 'local' services, or are you worried about the potential death of your local Post Office?
Let us know in the comments.