August 16, 2022

6,000 post offices face being sold off in ‘secret plan’ to axe half of network

Plans to streamline the business will result in thousands of post offices being sold or axed under secret plans, it has been claimed. The Mirror reports that campaigners believe bosses want to offload up to 6,000 loss-making branches, which make up half of the network, and turn the Post Office into a John Lewis-style “mutual” company run by staff.

The shock move would help draw a line under the IT fiasco that saw thousands of sub-postmasters wrongly accused of stealing from their branches. It has left the taxpayer with a bill of up to £1 billion in compensation and legal fees and the Post Office looking for new ways to secure its future.

Ex-postmistress Sally Stringer, giving evidence at the public inquiry into the scandal, said she was left stunned when officials discussed scaling down the state-owned network. During mediation talks with other workers, one executive told them: “Well, of course, we will only have 5,000 offices when we mutualise.”

She said: “I looked at her and said, ‘Really? You’ve got 11,000 offices now, so you’re going to reduce by 6,000 offices’.”

Ms Stringer, who ran a post office in Beckford, Gloucestershire, for 20 years, told the inquiry such closures would be “fundamentally and utterly wrong”. However, plans to mutualise the PO were proposed nearly a decade ago before the idea was dropped.

Mark Baker, of the Communication Workers Union, thinks the Post Office wants to give postmasters a share in its ownership. But he says this would only work if it ditched unprofitable branches and the Government ran them like a local library service.

He said: “You wouldn’t get much resistance from postmasters if full compensation was paid. But customers would be very upset.”

The Government has said it is committed to maintaining the 11,500-branch network at its current level across the UK. The Post Office said: “Our network of 11,500 branches has been stable for the last decade and we’ve seen a net growth in our network of 181 branches between the end of March 2021 and December 2021 alone.”

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