21 November 2008
By Julie Read
The Communication Workers Union is to hold discussions with Business Secretary Lord Mandelson on ways to widen the Post Office's remit.
This follows the government's decision last week to allow the Post Office to keep the contract for the benefits card account (Poca) and to end the tendering process.
The decision was called a 'victory for common sense' by the CWU. Now ministers and the CWU will consider whether the Post Office's remit can extend to the payment of energy bills and the provision of identity card services. They will also discuss whether the Post Office should forge closer links with local government.
The CWU claims that an enhanced service could ensure that customers who do not have direct debits would pay reduced basic service charges to energy and telecommunications companies.
At present, 78% of the Department for Work and Pensions' business goes through mainstream bank accounts, 20% into post office card accounts and 2% are paid by giro.
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: 'With deposits in the Post Office and National Savings and Investments soaring as people urgently seek 100% security, there is clear demand for government-backed banking.
'As well as defending jobs, this can help to meet the growing demand for secure banking and fight for the recovery of Britain's real economy.'
The Poca account was introduced to end the need for giros and payment books for pensioners and benefit claimants, while still allowing them to use post offices to collect money.