People value having a post office in their local community as more important than a pub, new research from Citizens Advice reveals.
In a landmark study looking at how people use the Post Office, the consumer body finds that half of Britons (49%) say that a post office branch is one of the most important services in their local community.
People ranked a post office as more important that than a bank branch (31%), library (29%), or a pub (25%). Convenience stores were most commonly picked by people as one of their top three most important local services (74%)
There are around 11,600 post offices in the UK offering a variety of services from sending parcels to passport applications, and bill payments to banking.
The new research finds over half of people (59%) say they use a post office at least once a month, with nearly all (96%), saying they use the post office to send letters and parcels, or purchase stamps.
Two in 5 people (38%) also use the post office to return mail order goods, underlining the importance of the Post Office as online shopping continues to grow.
Citizens Advice says post offices are also vital for many small businesses, with nearly two thirds (62%) – over 2 million – using them at least once a month, showing that a thriving post office network is not only essential for consumers but also key to the UK economy.
A major transformation project of the UK post offices has been underway since 2010 and by March 2018 two thirds of branches will have moved to new operating models. Many are now based in convenience stores, corner shops and petrol stations rather than in stand alone branches.
Citizens Advice says that this programme has been a qualified success in ensuring that most people have convenient access to a post office – with the number of locations people can access Post Office services remaining about the same. Mystery shopping of the Post Office carried out by Citizens Advice also shows that levels of service in the new branch models are the same or better than in traditional post offices.
Citizens Advice is calling on the government to confirm appropriate funding for the post office to maintain the current network of 11,600 branches, once the transformation programme is completed, to make sure people can access a local post office to meet their needs.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:
“Post offices play a vital role at the heart of local communities.
“Consumers and businesses rely on the Post Office for many services, not just sending and receiving parcels but accessing banking, getting local information and paying bills. People’s preference for a post office over a pub or bank near their home highlights just how much people value this service.
“The government’s Network Transformation Programme has been broadly successful in ensuring that people can access Post Office services. Citizens Advice will continue to monitor the impact of the changes to the Post Office and make sure the service meets people’s needs.
“We urge the new government to make sure that the level of funding for the post office network is maintained once the Transformation Programme is completed, so that the Post Office can continue to provide its vital service.”