Consumer Focus Post is warning that the Government’s commitment to strengthen the post office network is not being followed through with strong action, as the government-backed National Savings and Investments (NS&I) ISA1 will be removed from the Post Office from next Monday (6 April).
Consumer Focus Post feels the NS&I’s removal of their ISA from the post office undermines the Government’s moves to drive additional business through the network2 and is not in consumers’ best interests. The post office is the most convenient outlet for many consumers to access such services, particularly the oldest and more vulnerable, many of whom will not be happy conducting business by telephone, post or online.
The consumer champion for postal services in Northern Ireland, fears that if additional moves are made in this direction it could mean that Lord Mandelson’s commitment last week, that the Government will not support further post office closures, will prove an empty promise.
Without retaining existing, and developing new, business opportunities the network will not remain viable. Lord Mandelson has said that he feels the Post Office should become a much more significant player in financial services and should build on the trusted face-to-face network it offers. However the withdrawal of this government-backed service leaves NS&I ISA customers without the convenience of face-to-face contact at the post office3 and shows the lack of a joined-up approach across Government.
Chris Thirkettle, Principal Policy Advocate for Consumer Focus Post states:
“It is very worrying that while on one hand Government support is being promised to the post office network on the other government-backed business is being taken away. The removal of the NS&I ISA from the post office is simply at odds with Government’s ambitions to revive the network.
“A two pronged approach is needed to ensure that the network thrives and survives. Firstly, Government and local authorities must continue to provide the existing services that consumers want to use and value the post office for; as well as new services that the post office is well placed to offer; and secondly the Post Office must modernise and ensure it offers first-class customer service
“We are calling on the Government and local authorities to help the post office build on its assets – the trusted brand, local reach and face-to-face service – by making new and existing government services and a neighbourhood banking service available through post office branches. We would also urge Post Office Ltd to underpin these services through a programme of modernisation and improvements to customer service.”
Notes to editors:
1. Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) are savings products with a favourable tax status. NS&I ISA information is found at: http://www.nsandi.com/products/isas/from_disa.jsp
2. The BERR select committee are currently reviewing the services that Government and local authorities could offer through post offices.
3. From April 6 the NS&I ISA will cease to be available to new customers through the post office and existing customers will no longer be able to access their account through the network. Customers will only be able to access their accounts via telephone, post or online.
Consumer Focus Post is the independent champion for postal consumers in Northern Ireland. We are the voice of the postal consumer, and work to secure a fair deal on their behalf.