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Not for the moment.
The Post Office has begun to exploit the great potential offered by internet shopping and mail order through the Local Collect service, which allows customers to collect deliveries at their local post office. It has introduced a new secure Christmas pre-payment scheme for savers from this Christmas onwards. The Post Office must travel that road of new services and new reasons to go to post offices, all built on a brand that people can genuinely trust.
The network must also fulfil its customers' modern-day demands. That is the basis for the decisions that we have made, after careful consideration, about the best way of sustaining a substantial network of sub-post offices. It will remain a substantial network in the light of the significant changes in the way in which the public—our constituents—use those services.
The current difficulties that the post office network faces have rightly been the subject of many debates. It is undeniable—no one has sought to dispute the facts, because they cannot—that the Post Office made losses of approximately £3.5 million a week, every week, last year, with 4 million fewer people a week visiting post offices compared with just two years ago. That is a drop of nearly 20 per cent. in customers—again, our constituents—who use sub-post offices.
No undertaking could afford to ignore the consequences of changes of that magnitude. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said today, 800 post offices have fewer than 16 customers a week, and each transaction costs the taxpayer—all of us—£17 in public subsidy. In urban areas, some 1,000 sub-post offices compete for business with at least six other post offices within a mile of them. That is happening at a time when the number of customers is falling. [Interruption.] Opposition Members say from a sedentary position that we are keeping some of those sub-post offices open. We are—that is the precise point of the access criteria and the subsidy. We recognise the social role of post offices and we have to strike the right balance. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton is asking why we are not closing them—
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