Following a report on the shake-up of the UK’s postal service, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is urging the Government to restore the essential services that have been lost for many small businesses. But what are the chances of these post offices being restored when many of them have already been sold off for other purposes?
The loss of the main post office in Ship Street has added hours to the daily routine of many small traders in the Lanes who now have to carry their mail to Churchill Square and queue for up to 45 minutes each time. The same thing has happened in Trafalgar Street affecting North Laine traders.
The process of closing of more than 2,500 post office branches across the UK has disrupted vital lines of communication for many more small firms, costing them time and money. The independent review, which was launched by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), revealed that, where large companies have clearly benefited from ‘liberalisation’, small businesses have not.
"The report appears to substantiate fears that the postal services relied upon by many small businesses, particularly those in rural areas, have been critically eroded," said the FPB’s Chief Executive, Phil Orford. "Following the announcement that so many branches are to close, it is important that these services are restored as quickly as possible, and that suggested measures, such as locating post offices in alternative sites and introducing mobile units, are put into practice as a matter of urgency."
The report said that large businesses have gained from greater choice, lower prices, and more assurances over the quality of mail deliveries due to the changes. However, there have been ‘no significant benefits’ for smaller firms that have no choice over their provider and pay higher stamp prices.
The Post Office is selecting the branches it wants to close using the Government's ‘national access criteria', which includes the stipulation that 95% of a postcode district's population is within six miles of a post office. The FPB is warning that religiously sticking to an approach based on population levels could fail to meet the individual needs of local communities – including the specific services required by small businesses.
The FPB believes that the traditional service offered by Royal Mail provides members with better value for money, and agrees with the review panel that introducing ‘Pricing In Proportion’, based on the weight and dimensions of a package, has made the situation worse for many business-owners. A survey carried out by the FPB in 2006, when the closures were announced, revealed that over 60% of respondents feared that PIP would increase their costs.
The review panel’s final report is expected to be published in the summer.
In the meantime the Business Forum is exploring the possibility of setting up a postal service for the city's businesses. It is vital to secure at least one large user to make the project viable and we are interested to hear from larger companies that would be interested in being associated with this innovative idea. Please contact email@example.com if you would like to learn more about our plans.
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