Headlines: August 7th, 2001

Customers walking into Post Offices in Leicestershire and Rutland are finding that they can now get range of local and national information about government services, free of charge. The new service known as ‘Your Guide’ is being introduced to Post Offices throughout the two counties as a pilot to assess whether the service should be rolled out nationally. Consignia, formerly the Post Office, is fitting 50 units a week in the region and plans to have 267 Post Offices providing the service by the end of August.’Your Guide’ provides information about jobs, benefits, retirement, transport and local information. It uses a combination of five channels: face-to-face, by sub postmasters and counter staff; leaflet dispensers; telephone hotlines and touch screen computers, with expert advice sessions held at some of the larger offices.

More than 30 organisations are providing information for the pilot including central departments such as Department for Work and Pensions, local councils including Leicestershire City and County Councils and the voluntary sector including Age Concern.

The new service uses the recently installed Horizon computer network which links all 18,500 post offices across the UK. The pilot will run until February 2002.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the service is achieving the aims of fostering thriving, profitable Post Offices and at the same time improving accessibility to Government information and services. The Government and Consignia are jointly providing the 29m pounds funding for the project.

The original proposal to use Post Offices as one stop shops emerged in a Cabinet Office report in 2000 which proposed a General Government Practitioner service to provide better access for citizens to government and advice and services while at the same time adding another income stream for the Post Office.