The 2015 Post Office Network Report

It is a legal requirement for Post Office Ltd to provide to parliament a Network report detailing the number of branches and how they meet the universal service obligation.

In the past this has been published in July – 4 months after their year end.   It is now the end of August and the report has still not been delivered.

One can only wonder why the delay in publication but this extract from a Parliamentary briefing paper may give some ideas about just how difficult the task of knowing where all your branches are:

From June 2005 a new system of recording the number of Post Offices was introduced. This has caused a discontinuity in the overall total, regional figures and the urban/rural breakdown. Overall, the number of post offices recorded at the end of June 2005 was only two below the total at the end of March 2005. However, 31 net rural reductions and 33 net urban reductions were counted. In this note, the totals given for June 2005 are used but the change figures are adjusted to take account of the discontinuity. There is also a break in the series at the end of 2006 and again at the end of 2006/07 after Royal Mail undertook work regarding the identification of branches and services. In rural areas in particular, they have, over the past few years, introduced a number of ‘innovative solutions’ – for example, where Sub-postmasters provide a service in a nearby village from the village hall. They may do this for one or more villages and the previous technical set up mean’s that all accounting was completed at the host or hub site. Technical updates now mean that all individual serving points are identified. Also, in many remote areas communication with branches was through satellite links and the Post Office is now able to communicate with them through broadband. These and other activities have changed the way that some branches are identified, although there has in effect been no actual physical change in services to the public at these branches. Between December 2006, March 2007 and June 2007, the Post Office increased the accuracy of the data in terms of the methodology and data sets used. Previous analysis to identify branch locations was based on postcode information where postcode centroids were used to plot locations which are accurate to 100m. The new approach is to use address pointed coordinates, these are accurate to the actual building, rather than the 100m for the postcode centroids. As an example of these changes, there was a fall in the physical network at June 2007 of 44 branches on March 2007, the impact of the technical changes (-28 branches) means that the statistics showed a fall in the post office network of 72 branches.

Perhaps they think no one reads these reports?

The Social Value of the Network

In 2009 the Government (PostComm) commissioned a report (http://www.nera.com/content/dam/nera/publications/archive1/PUB_Postcomm_Aug2009.pdf) on the Social Value of the Post Office Network.   Why they did this is not clear but it was certainly the precursor to the Network Transformation project.  Perhaps they felt this report would help to justify spending £1.34billion on the network.

The report basically evaluated how much each household would be prepared to pay in order to have access to Post Office Services.   The most quoted piece out of this report was that the Social Value equated to at least £2.3billion – although the high end figure was £10.2Billion.

The report also broke down this figure into product groups and asked the importance of each to the households.   Key groups were of course Postage and Banking etc – you know the products that POL’s customer wants and what he goes into the post office for in the first place.

It is interesting to note then that the calculated social value of the products that POL now believe will be their financial saviour – travel money, personal finance etc was a mere 5% of the total social value of the network.

Problems With Post Office Ltd (POL)

This new blog seeks to be a repository of information and links relating to two topics.

a) Network Transformation (NT) which from its inception has been a disaster for Subpostmasters (SPMRs) and the Post Office Network.   Of course there have been some winners but now it is only the losers that are left and they need to be protected.  NT has also seen a huge amount of public investment squandered and POL management need to be brought to account for claiming success despite clear evidence to the contrary.

b) Horizon on Line (HOL) recent media attention has brought the reliability of HOL into question.  POL management are in complete denial that this problem exists which is extraordinary given that they have been shown concrete evidence to the contrary.   Incompetence is rife within the organisation and this leads to SPMRs losing money right left and centre.

As I add to these pages, looking back to what was said, published and promised I hope interested parties will eventually be able to use this as useful reference tool.

Cheers, Tim