The Chief Executive of the Post Office shared the organisation’s journey to becoming a mutually owned business at the Mutuals Forum in London.
The Post Office shares similarities with mutuality, said Paula Vennells, they are “rooted in community.”
Almost 97 per cent of Post Offices are run independently, with over 55,000 customer-facing staff. Ms Vennells said: “[It is] a very complex series of relationships, driven by a common purpose. Small business, coming into small businesses to do business – you can’t get more local than that.”
She added that most people know where their local post office is and have an opinion about it: “People have views and they care deservedly about it. This is why the journey to mutualisation is so relevant.”
The journey, which has been supported by think-tank Mutuo, has not been easy, according to Ms Vennells: “My board and colleagues are all struggling with commerciality versus ethics, can they be one of the same thing?
“It needs to be on a sound economic footing, you cannot mutualise something that is loss making, in terms of our strategy, we are making good progress.”
The Post Office has set up a Stakeholder Forum with representatives from mutuals, public benefits organisations such as the BBC and a member of the British Council. Two working groups have also been created to look at a public purpose from a consumer and colleague point of view.
Ms Vennells described the work the Post Office is already doing within communities, with the charity Go on working to address the issue of digital exclusion.
She added that there were many myths surrounding the Post Office in its now non-existant links with Royal Mail and how the organisation is no longer a public body, but Ms Vennells said the network is now at its most stable.
She added: “Post Offices have the energy and drive that you get in a local business.”
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