Tories slam Post Office reform

THE TORIES yesterday hit out at government plans to overhaul the Post Office, saying plans to start offering financial products through branches was too little too late.<br /><br />A public consultation will be launched into plans to reform the ailing service, business secretary Lord Mandelson said yesterday, which include offering account access from each of the 11,500 Post Office branches.<br /><br />But shadow business secretary Ken Clarke slammed the timing of the plans, saying it was a &ldquo;last minute attempt to patch up the damage Labour has done to the Post Office network after 12 years of neglect&rdquo;.<br /><br />Aound &pound;1.7bn of investment will be needed by 2011 if the plan, which also includes a move to provide mortgages, is to go ahead. The government hopes the plans will transform the service, which it failed to part-privatise earlier this year when a suitable buyer could not be found, into &ldquo;a leading player in financial services&rdquo;.<br /><br />&ldquo;Growing financial services at the Post Office will help secure the future of the network and give people access to a full range of banking products at an institution they trust and value,&rdquo; Mandelson said.<br /><br />The government&rsquo;s plans also include:<br />&bull; Current accounts accessible from any post office branch.<br />&bull; Children&rsquo;s savings accounts.<br />&bull; Business accounts.<br />&bull; Weekly budgeting accounts that ring-fence a proportion of income each week to pay bills.<br />&bull; Working to ensure that all bank current accounts can be accessed via the Post Office.<br /><br />But the Tories said they would offer &ldquo;a wider range of business services and advice on issues like tax returns and pension entitlements&rdquo;.