Headlines: March 28th, 2001

The first Post Office to pilot the one stop Government shop programme has opened its doors in Leicester. The ‘Start Here’ touchscreen kiosk can be used by customers to gain access to information ranging from advice on benefits, health and education to information on housing, care and crime. The pilot, which will be funded by 25 million pounds from the Department of Trade and Industry, will be extended to all 287 Post Offices in Leicestershire and Rutland in the next few months. If the pilot demonstrates that the problems of developing the one stop shop can be overcome and the public respond, the service will be progressively extended to all the 18,500 retail outlets.The programme evolved from a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit in the Cabinet Office which recommended that postmasters should become Government General Practitioners with a role, similar to a medical GP. They will offer low level advice and information and help customers to carry out a range of transactions such as paying council tax. Some 28 million people use post office services each week.

The one stop shop programme relies on ‘Horizon’ the 480 million pounds computerization progamme which has now been installed in post offices. The system provides some 40,000 interlinked counter computer terminals and 72,000 people are being trained in their use up and down the country.

The provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000, which brings about the most radical reform of the Post Office since Rowland Hill introduced the penny post in 1840, have now come into effect . The act changes the nature of the Post Office, transforming it from a statutory authority into ‘Consignia plc’ a company wholly owned by the Government, enabling it to compete more effectively in a changing global communications market.