POST OFFICE USERS’ NATIONAL COUNCIL (POUNC)
A CONSULTATION DOCUMENT ON
A NEW LOCAL STRUCTURE
17 April 2000
Forward by the Chairman of POUNC
Changes to the regulation of the Postal market
Role of the CCPS
Options for a new local structure
FOREWARD BY PETER CARR, CHAIRMAN OF POST OFFICE USERS NATIONAL COUNCIL (POUNC)
The Government White Paper published July 1999 entitled "Post Office Reform: A World Class Service for the 21st Century" contained a number of proposals designed to encourage competition in the postal services market. This will be achieved largely through a controlled reduction in the current level of the Post Office monopoly to permit new operators to enter the market.
The White Paper recognised that these changes require a more powerful organisation to provide effective representation for consumers and that new body will be called the Consumer Council for Postal Services (CCPS).
The CCPS will represent all consumers throughout the United Kingdom and as such it will include regional committees for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
The postal services market in the UK is substantial with more than 70 million letters delivered each day and 43 million visits to post offices by 28 million customers every week. The users of these services depend upon them and require a high degree of reliability. Change of any kind to consumer services provokes a wide range of reaction from the different sections of the users community. It is especially the case when those services are a well established part of national life and are provided through a monopoly organisation.
The options that are examined in the consultative document are designed to provide adequate representation geographically as well as recognising the different needs of the various user groups with their special requirements. Bearing in mind the criteria for a successful structure, the Council considered that Option 2 most closely provides the appropriate mechanism to ensure that the consumer will be effectively represented during the immediate period of change ahead, and in the future. It also provides the best value for money.
I look forward to receiving your comments.
The purpose of this document is to:
Outline the changes that are being introduced to consumer representation in the postal market
Explain the Council’s new role
Set out the options for a structure to obtain local representation
Invite comments on the options and some associated issues.
Invitation to comment
Views on the options and comments on any other issues would be welcome. These should be sent to:
Post Office Users’ National Council,
6 Hercules Road,
London, SE1 7DN
The website address: www.pounc.org.uk
Copies of this document are available from the website.
Closing date for comments is 13 May
Changes to the regulation of the postal market
Post Office Users’ National Council (POUNC) was set up under the Post Office Act 1969. POUNC was established to represent users’ interest in the Post Office. Under the same Act, separate statutory Councils were established for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to look after the user interests in their respective geographical areas. The Chairmen of those councils are also members of POUNC. POUNC represents the national voice and works closely with the other Councils.
The Post Office Act also empowered the Minister to pay allowances to bodies recognised by him to be assisting the Council to ascertain the opinion of users of Post Office services. Post Office Advisory Committees (POACs) are locally based committees representing user views, and therefore such committees were recognised by the Minister. However they are not statutory bodies. Moreover they are not accountable to POUNC for their performance and actions.
The White Paper issued by Government in July 1999: ‘Post Office Reform: A World Class Service for the 21st century’ proposed major changes to the role of consumer representation for postal services, and regulation of the postal market. The Government also published a Statutory Instrument (SI 2107) in July that set up a Regulator (the Postal Services Commission) from 1 April 2000. The SI only gives the Postal Services Commission limited powers. Initially it will largely act as advisor to the Government.
The White Paper set out reforms to the postal market. The Postal Services Commission will be given a greater range of powers to regulate the Post Office and certain elements of the postal market. The PSC is also charged with bringing forward proposals to introduce more competition. The Post Office will be converted to a Public Limited Company with more commercial and financial freedoms. The consumer voice currently represented by POUNC will be given a stronger, more central role. POUNC will be wound up and replaced by a new body called the Consumer Council for Postal Services (CCPS).
The White Paper proposed that in order to maximise the effectiveness of the consumer voice there should be a strong national body and consequent changes to the present organisational structures. Those changes include that the separate statutory Councils for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are wound up. However CCPS must ensure regional needs are addressed and it is fully informed of regional issues. Therefore CCPS must retain offices and a Committee in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Additionally CCPS will be given powers to establish regional committees.
At grass roots level, the White Paper noted that many of the individual POACs had done an excellent job but that the system of POACs was developed in an ad hoc manner and there was a lack of clarity and strategic direction. The Government therefore decided to cease the funding of the local network of some 180 Post Office Advisory Committees. The White Paper proposed that POUNC should carry out a review of consumer representation at the local level.
Following the White Paper, the Government has now laid the Postal Services Bill before Parliament. It is expected to receive Royal Assent by Summer although some of the provisions will be introduced in stages.
Role of CCPS
CCPS’s role and hence the way it operates may yet be influenced as the legislation goes through Parliament. As presently envisaged, CCPS’s main functions will be to:
"To protect, promote and develop the interests of all consumers of UK postal services".
CCPS sees its nine main early priorities as being:-
Options for a new local structure
In Autumn 1999, POUNC commissioned a study by Omega Partners into the options for setting up local structures under a National Council. The options needed to reflect that CCPS must have Country Committees for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The consultants identified four broad options:
Option 1 Four country committees: one each for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Option 2 Three Country Committees plus five Regional Committees in England to mirror the Post Office information structures
Option 3 Three Country Committees: plus nine Regional Committees in England to reflect broadly the Regional Development Agencies structure.
Option 4 128 members representing post code areas reporting to eight country committees.
The enclosed diagrams provide more detailed information on:
The Council supported the views of the consultants and broadly favoured option 2, although there were some reservations on the precise boundaries for the Committee structure. In their view, it represented the best option judged against the success criteria.
POUNC is inviting views on the options put forward by the consultants. The options only set out some broad assumptions on the Committees and their role. Clearly, a number of detailed issues need to be resolved. These cover amongst other things:-
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