Key Post Office role for Co-operatives UK

Co-operatives UK has been handed a key role in plans to mutualise the Post Office network after the organisation’s Secretary General, Ed Mayo, contacted the Government to suggest...

Mr Mayo, who had experience of running the postal service’s consumer watchdog prior to taking over as chief officer of the Movement’s apex body, wrote to Business, Innovation and Skills junior minister Ed Davey MP in July.

And, this month, the Coalition responded by inviting Co-operatives UK to explore options for mutualising parts of the Post Office and report back to BIS ministers by next spring. There will then be a public consultation and Co-operatives UK’s recommendations would be subject to Parliamentary debate and scrutiny before any mutual structure could be established.

Mr Mayo told the News: “We hope to start soon and are in liaison with BIS to get the resources to do this. It is likely to be a project led by Co-operatives UK and, as with all of our work, open to and involving those of our members that have a relevant interest. 

“We won’t be setting up a traditional committee as the need is to reach out more widely to all the key stakeholders of the Post Office network to explore mutual options. BIS has formed an initial advisory group and we would look to work with and build on this. The focus will be on governance and ownership, not current franchise agreements or trading. 

“We have already had good interest and support from our members and individual co-operators and societies are welcome to contact us as all ideas are welcome.”

Mr Mayo said the idea would be to develop a number of options for consideration and added: “We will draw on and learn from the success of different co-operative and mutual models both in the UK and overseas. We need to be as flexible as possible in terms of who the members are. 

“Examples like the Co-operative Group and Barcelona Football Club offer proof that democratic models can go hand in hand with long term thinking and excellence of leadership and management.”

The proposed mutualisation of the Post Office is being supported by the mutual think-tank, Mutuo, and by the Plunkett Foundation, which supports community ownership campaigns in rural communities.

Mutuo Chief Executive Peter Hunt commented: “The proposal could help secure the future of the Post Office for the public benefit. As a mutual, the Post Office will be able to harness the experience and goodwill of its employees, business partners and customers. 

“Together they will be part of a practical partnerhip that uses all of their skills to design a Post Office for the years ahead.”

And Plunkett Foundation Chief Executive Peter Couchman added: “The Government’s commitment to exploring a mutual future for the Post Office is to be welcomed. Rural communities live in fear of losing their postal services, but a properly designed mutual could give them ownership of the very services they are trying to save and we would urge community-owned shops that operate post offices to play an active role in exploring how they could become part owners of the network.”

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