For the UK's mail delivery service, See Royal Mail
Post Office Ltd (Swyddfa'r Post Cyf.; oifig a' phuist) is a retail post office company in the United Kingdom that provides a wide range of products including postage stamps and banking to the public through its nationwide network of post office branches.
Post Office Ltd was separated from the postal service Royal Mail
but remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group Ltd. A large number of its branches are under franchise agreements.
There are currently around 14,000 Post Office branches across the UK of which approximately 370 are directly managed by Post Office Ltd. (known as Crown Post Offices). The majority of branches are either run by multiple franchise partners or local subpostmaster agents.
The Post Office has a wide variety of services throughout the network of branches. Products and services available vary throughout the network; main post offices generally provide the full range of services.
The Post Office provides information on services and accepts postal items and payment on behalf of the two collection and delivery divisions of the Royal Mail group, Royal Mail
. These include a variety of ordinary and guaranteed services both for delivery within the United Kingdom and to international destinations. Postage stamps
(including commemorative stamps and other philatelic
and international reply coupons
are sold, while applications for redirection of mail are accepted on behalf of Royal Mail.
Post Office Local Collect is a scheme whereby undelivered mail can be redirected at customer request to a post office for convenient collection. Poste restante mail can also be held for collection by people travelling.
Personal banking services are offered on behalf of a number of "partner banks" that the Post Office has agreements with. Although different services are available on behalf of different institutions, these may include cash withdrawals, paying in cash and cheques, balance enquiries and cheque encashment. Some post offices also have cash machines
, mainly provided by Bank of Ireland
The Post Office Card Account is a basic bank account allowing customers to collect benefit payments. Most other basic accounts can also be accessed through post offices.
Business banking services are also offered, mainly through Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank (the successor to the Post Office Girobank).
The Post Office has long been an agent for National Savings and Investments
, which was originally the Post Office Savings Bank but is now a wholly separate institution. Information is available for most NS&I products, including Premium Bonds
, and numerous transactions can be carried out in post offices.
In recent years the Post Office has launched its own range of branded savings products, which are sometimes in competition with those offered by NS&I. Currently available are Instant Saver (an instant access account) and Five Year Saver (a fixed term investment). A Post Office ISA is set to be launched later in 2008.
The Post Office operates as a provider of a home landline
telephone service (branded as Post Office HomePhone) and has recently added broadband internet
to its portfolio.
Mobile phone E Top-up is available on behalf of most networks. Post Office branded prepay phonecards are available, offering potential savings particularly on international call rates.
Insurance and financial services
The Post Office is now seeking to establish itself as a financial service provider and provides a number of branded insurance products including for cars, vans and motorbikes
; home insurance
(buildings and/or contents); pet insurance
and travel insurance
. Life insurance
, over 50s life cover and lifestyle protection insurance are also available.
The Post Office is now offering itself as a mortgage provider and also offers personal loans, although these are now marketed purely through the company's website and not through the branch network.
A number of bill payments can be accepted on behalf of a variety of organisations including utilities
, local authorities and others. These can be in the form of automated payments (barcoded bills, swipe cards, key charging) or manual transactions through the Alliance & Leicester Transcash system.
Check and send services are available for applications made to several government institutions, including the IPS
(for British passport
(for driving licences
and the Department of Health
(for the European Health Insurance Card
). Fishing licences are issued on behalf of the Environment Agency
from branches in England and Wales. Selected branches issue international driving permits.
- National Lottery services
- Selling and cashing-in postal orders
- Foreign currency exchange and Travel Money Card
- Sales of gift vouchers for certain high street merchants
- Sorted! magazine
- Savings stamps
In towns, Post Offices are usually open from around 9am to 5.30pm on Monday - Friday and from 9am to 12.30pm on Saturday. In some country areas, opening hours are much shorter - perhaps only four hours per week. Most Post Offices are shut on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Long standing year on year losses (£102M loss in the second half of 2006 – the only loss making division of Royal Mail)
The RM group turned a £22M profit in this same period
Recent plans to cut the £150m-a-year subsidy for rural post offices lead to the announcement that 2500 post offices are to be closed.
New technology means most of their additional services can be used online – e.g.:
- Paying car tax
- Receiving benefits payments
- Increased use of email means that for many people the postal service is becoming obsolete
- Increasing competition
The Post Office has been affected by closures in the last few years. This has caused much anger in local communities because the residents are unable to benefit from the postal and banking services that the Post Office provides.
It also increases business costs, as once the local Post Office has closed, people may have to drive some distance (perhaps five miles) to reach a Post Office.
The government has given a £1.7 billion subsidy to Royal Mail so that it can turn a profit by 2011. This will be used to invest across the whole Royal Mail Group network, which is made up of Royal Mail, Post Office Ltd and Parcelforce
85 Crown Post Offices are to close, 70 of which are to be sold to W H Smith. This follows a trial of six Post Office Outlets in W H Smith stores. W H Smith is expected to make up to £2.5 million extra in its annual profits.
The closure of 2,500 sub-Post Offices will proceed between 2008-09. Redundancy packages will be provided from public funding, (subpostmasters are to get over 20 months pay, roughly £65,000, to close).
Notes and references