£1.3bn to ‘transform’ post office branches

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A £1.3bn investment in the Post Office was announced yesterday, with the aim of “transforming” thousands of branches, including longer opening hours.

Around 6,000 post offices will be converted into more modern branches over the next three years in what was described as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to revitalise the network. The Government repeated its pledge that no more post offices will close, but the postal workers’ union warned that making wholesale changes to the network was a “major gamble” and involved “downgrading” some branches.

The Post Office said all its 11,800 branches will benefit directly or indirectly from the investment, which is subject to European Union state aid clearance. Almost half of post offices will convert to a “new operating model”, covering either larger branches, which will offer extended opening hours, or “local-style” offices, where a post office counter will operate inside a convenience-type store, also with longer hours.

Subpostmasters who convert to a main style branch will be offered up to £45,000 to help the change.

The programme was aimed at making the post office less dependent on subsidies, said the post office, adding that the number of weekly visits to offices had fallen from 28 million to 20 million in the past 12 years.

The £1.3bn was announced by the Government in 2010, but this is the first time details have been given on how the money will be spent.