Struggling post offices around the UK should be transformed into small business hubs to safeguard their future, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which is urging the Government to support the move.
Research from the FSB has found that 47 per cent of small firms use the Post Office at least twice a week, but that firms are not getting the local business support they would like to have.
In the absence of business support in every community, FSB national chairman, John Wright, said that by becoming business hubs — through offering advice on banking, Government services and insurance, as well as access to dedicated Business Link advisers, Internet access and meeting room facilities for start-ups — the Post Office network would have a chance to become financially sustainable for years to come.
“The scheme would also help local firms who are currently being let down by the lack of local business services available,” he said. “Making post offices into small business hubs will not only ensure the survival of the country’s post offices, but also the communities that they serve.
“Post offices are at the heart of many communities and act not only as a place to send invoices or to collect parcels, but as somewhere for small firms to network, and meet like-minded business men and women as well as potential customers,” added Wright.
Creating a Post Office banking service would also give more options for small firms looking to secure credit, an FSB spokesperson added.
The recommendations are still at the proposal stage, but the FSB spokesperson said feedback from the National Federation of Sub Post Masters had so far been “positive”.
George Derbyshire, chief executive of the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA), also welcomed the proposals.
“There will always be physical products and documents which need to be delivered and collected, and for many people, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact, particularly in rural areas which are ill-served by so many providers,” he said.
“Post office managers need to think flexibly and creatively about providing the services which will appeal to their local community and there are some interesting ideas here,” added Derbyshire.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills declined to comment.