Deal to keep Royal Mail services in East Anglian branches for 10 years

A shot in the arm was given to post offices across East Anglia last night after a 10-year deal was signed to keep Royal Mail services in the region's branches for the next decade.

The 10-year inter-business agreement starts from April 1 and will see post office branches in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge provide a full range of Royal Mail products such as first and second-class stamps, parcels, air mail and recorded and special deliveries until 2022.

The news of the deal was welcomed by subpostmasters, but there was a note of caution that more needed to be done to keep the region branches open to customers by pushing more business and deals their way.

Keith Nicholls, King's Lynn and North Norfolk branch secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters', who runs the Stalham post office, broadly welcomed the contract. He said: 'I think a certain amount of uncertainty felt by sub postmasters will be removed. But we can never become complacent. Knowing the government they will give us something with one hand and take away things with the other.'

Guy Mitchell, the subpostmaster of Southwold's post office, said other services offered at post offices have been removed or scaled down including savings schemes and the European Health Insurance Card.

He added: 'The deal is good because that helps the security of post offices for the next 10 years, but it is not enough on its own. We need to see other action as well from the government for the next 10 years to provide security to post offices.'

John Smith, subpostmaster at Rockland St Mary, and branch secretary for the Norwich area, also welcomed the deal but said more needed to be done to 'push business' towards branches.

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He added: 'The trouble with the government it that it moves so slowly. Things are all right here but other post offices may need business now.'

In 2008 the region was hit badly by a Post Office cull by the previous government which saw 58 branches in Norfolk and Suffolk close as part of plans to shut 2,500 nationally.

Following the election of the coalition government last year the government pledged �1.34bn of support and investment without any closure programmes and committed to maintain at least 11,5000 branches.

Contracts have also been signed between several organisations, including the UK Border Agency, and the Post Office.

Announcing yesterday's deal, postal affairs minister Edward Davey said: 'On coming to office, we found a demoralised Post Office, still losing substantial sums despite years of cutbacks and closures.

'So a year ago I set out a radical plan to transform Post Office's future, with �1.34bn of government support and investment but without any closure programmes. While it will take several years to turn round the Post Office's finances, it's increasingly clear reforms are beginning to work.

'The 10-year deal struck between Royal Mail and the Post Office will give subpostmasters and others greater confidence. Coupled with winning new contracts and the successful pilots of new operating models, the signs are extremely encouraging for the future of the Post Office.'

George Thomson, National Federation of SubPostmasters general secretary, said: 'With the 10-year agreement in place, ministers must now turn their full attention to providing more government services at post offices, and making their pledge of using the network as the front office for government into a reality.'

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