I asked that the Council enter into discussions with the Post Office to explore the possibility of the Council taking on some of the sub-offices. So far Post Office Ltd have been extremely difficult to pin down. The Post Office has taken weeks and months to answer letters, given vague information and enquiries have been redirected to a variety of people in a variety of departments. In my view, the Post Office has used a range of delaying tactics.

Eventually the Council officers were able to secure a meeting with officials at the Post Office. Sadly it was the day after a number of the sub-offices had already closed.

The Council was seeking to emulate the work done by Essex County Council. Their local funding model (expected to cost the Essex County Council £1.5m a year) was still being developed, and although negotiations are advanced in Essex, no branches have reopened yet.

Now the Post Office have raised a number of financial obstacles. The Central Government’s £150 million subsidy to Post Office Ltd CANNOT be directed via Councils to support of the re-opening of closed branches. In addition, any arrangements for the Council to subsidise sub-branches may require EU approval.

In addition the cost of any package will depend on the branch, customer footfall and the type of product sold there. But consists of:

• Annual Fee to Post Office Ltd to cover their internal costs, management of cash, supply of leaflets etc. Typical figure - up to £50,000 per annum.

• Working cash must be provided by the Council which could be up to £80,000 per annum.

• Set up costs i.e. costs of adapting premises if the Council were to relocate sub-offices into Council buildings or replacing removed equipment from already closed sub-offices e.g. Post Office signage, desking, security, equipment installation; a one off cost but it will be substantial.

• Staff training - estimated 2k per person.

The Council would have to commit to signing a contract to March 2011. After that date, any contracts would be renegotiated depending on the health of the Post Office Network at that time and despite any investment by the Council – the sub-offices could be closed by Post Office Ltd.

Finally and crucially, the Post Office Ltd. reserve the right to reject any offers to run Post Offices if keeping any open would affect the viability of nearby branches - known as a ‘criteria check’ i.e. if they think the re-opened/kept open sub-post office would be successful, they can refuse to allow the Council to take it on.

So we now have to wait to see if the Post Office criteria check, run by them for them, permits the Council to have detailed business by business discussions. Sadly the Post Office will have closed all the sub-offices by then.

Dealing with the Post Office is like trying to push water uphill with a fork.