Thursday, 12 April 2018

New threat to Post Offices

The revelation that WH Smith's pre-tax profits from its High Street shops fell by more than 4% is worrying (except to those economic liberals in the Treasury who want to get rid of the post office organisation). In the early years of the coalition, Vince Cable and Edward Davey - then Business ministers - insisted that the programme of post office closures, begun under Thatcher/Major and accelerated under Blair/Brown, must cease. It seems that a compromise was reached under which crown post offices would remain open but would be rehoused in commercial premises, WH Smith being the preferred landlord. At the time, WH Smith's income was already under pressure. It could well be that the PO kept many a Smith's branch viable.

The virtual omnipresence of Smith on the High Street must have appealed to the Treasury. However, it would not take much more financial pressure on the chain to make it vulnerable to a buyer who could cut the nationwide shops and concentrate on the more rewarding station and airport outlets. Then what would happen to the post offices, under a government which is ideologically opposed to any state control?

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