‘Post Office Locals’ need to improve if consumers are to get full benefits says a new report from Consumer Focus Wales.
In Staying Local: the Future of the Post Office Network, the consumer watchdog found that while there are clear benefits for customers in the new ’PO Locals’ scheme – which is scheduled to be rolled out from June, consumers also have concerns.
Findings show that people welcome the longer hours, convenience and friendly service of the ‘PO Locals’ programme, many had concerns about privacy and the range of services available.
Victoria Lloyd, our Director of Influencing and Programme Development, says:
‘Post offices are a lifeline for older people and research carried out in 2007 showed that 76 per cent of people aged 65 and over in Wales used their local post office at least once a week.
‘The disappearance of post offices in recent years – a traditional hub in our communities, has contributed to an increase in problems such as social isolation and loneliness.
'The loss of post offices - mirrored by the closure of bank branches, has also made it increasingly difficult to access money quickly and easily in some parts of Wales.
‘As older people are less likely to use phone or internet banking, their ability to carry out simple financial transactions such as paying their bills or drawing their pension, have been significantly hampered.
'These services are essential and this is why Age Cymru wants businesses such as post offices to be supported to revitalise local communities and ensure that they remain economically vibrant.’
Rebecca Thomas, post specialist at Consumer Focus Wales, said:
‘Post offices are a vital service for local communities in Wales. Before Post Office Locals are rolled-out across Wales, it is crucial that the Post Office delivers a model that meets its customers’ needs, both now and in the future.
'Our research highlights important plus points but also warning lights which must be urgently addressed.
'This is a major shift away from traditional sub-post offices. Post Office Locals have the potential to offer the consistent and reliable service that consumers rely on – but there are many areas that need to see improvement.
‘People view their post office as a community service and have expectations about the service they will get. In isolated, rural areas it continues to act as a social hub for many. To make the network sustainable for the future it must be able to benefit from future revenue streams, including banking transactions and the lucrative market for parcel drop-off and collection, which is being fuelled by online shopping.’