Over the past couple of years we’ve been working hard to reduce the loss our Crown network makes. A few years ago it was losing £46 million a year and now that figure has been reduced to £12 million. Ultimately we have to change – we cannot continue to be a burden on the taxpayer.
The last three years have definitely been the most challenging of my career. We’ve been investing in 300 Crown branches and working with branch colleagues to change the way we serve our customers, and it’s a huge programme of work.
But, as with the wider network transformation programme, this does mean change for our colleagues and customers. We’ve also reduced the number of Crown branches from 370 to around 320 to help lessen our reliance on the taxpayer.
We’ve worked with people like Ann who appeared in episode one to ensure they have been kept fully informed of any changes that affect our branches. And although it’s always sad to see colleagues leave the business, it’s great to see people like Elliot Jacobs, who also featured in the first episode, taking on some of these branches and making them such a success.
I am convinced we can take the Crown network to where I know it should be, to really fulfil its potential and the contribution it makes to the overall success of the Post Office. We need to make sure these branches are the model for how other Post Office branches work, how this business interacts with its customers, how it develops and engages with its people and, in turn, make sure we can deliver a profitable and sustainable business.
Episode three also looks at some of our branches that have found themselves in special circumstances for a wide range of reasons.
In the case of the Crown branch in Whitstable, for example, we were proposing to franchise the branch, but the landlord wanted us to move out before we could find a suitable retailer.
People in the area didn’t want to lose their Crown branch but, unfortunately, it’s not always possible to please everybody. My team worked really hard to try to find a solution, but time ran out and we had to leave the premises. I’m pleased to say we provided a temporary solution in the form of a portable unit, and the search continues for a permanent home.
Across the whole Post Office network, our teams work tirelessly to find the best solution all round when a branch faces something like this. Every situation is unique. Sometimes the perfect solution comes about; other times it doesn’t, despite all our best efforts.
Many viewers probably wouldn’t even think about the Post Office having to deal with one-off situations like these that are beyond our control. I’m sure the programme will be a real eye-opener.