EXCLUSIVE: Post Office to open first Drop & Collect branch

Chief executive Nick Read confirmed the news at the firm’s ‘We are Post Office’ postmaster conference held in Coventry on 7 October

The Post Office (PO) has confirmed plans to open its first Drop & Collect branch next month using the new cloud-based computer system created to replace Horizon.

Chief executive Nick Read announced the news at the company’s ‘We are Post Office’ postmaster conference held in Coventry on 7 October.

In April, PO expanded existing trials of new branch formats in an effort to offer greater flexibility for its franchise partners, including the use of handheld devices, with a smaller range of services.

Addressing postmasters, Read said PO is “doing more to strengthen the network” as it trials new formats, “with around a dozen” Drop & Collect branches expected to be open by Christmas.

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The branches will be the first to use PO’s new cloud-based IT system, replacing the scandal-hit and error-prone Horizon system. “The app of Drop & Collect handheld devices will be the first time PO uses different technology for transactions,” said Read. “We want to get this right to compete in the growing parcels market and enhance the sustainability of the network and profitability of branches.”

Although PO has already announced it intends to fully migrate from Horizon by 2025, Read went on to reveal 170 postmasters have been involved in “shaping the design of the new system”, and it has recently undergone further improvements “with rapid fixes to processes, system and tools” and “better access management protocols to make your accounts more secure”.

With regard to the Horizon scandal, Read acknowledged once again that PO “failed a large number of postmasters”, and is making “good progress with financial redress”.

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“The Historical Shortfall Scheme is making payments to claimants,” he said. “Those with criminal convictions overturned are receiving interim compensation.

“We are working closely with the now Statutory Inquiry to get to the bottom of what went wrong.”

He added: “We continue to make sure that all the lessons have been learnt and we support you better. Some of the improvements include, for example, a better balancing investigation and support process, including the introduction of a ‘review of dispute’ button on Horizon.

On the same day, postmaster effectiveness director Tracey Marshall unveiled PO’s new postmaster engagement framework, launched after six out of 10 postmasters said they wanted to be more involved in decision making. “For over a year we have run regular regional forums led by regional managers,” she said.

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“We now want to create a more formalised approach, fully coordinated across the business. This will ensure a representative range of postmasters – reflecting different types of branches, gender, ethnicity and locations.”

Marshall confirmed the first meetings will be held in early 2022 in each of the nine regions, discussing “common operational issues and ways to improve your overall experience”.

She added there were also plans to establish a national independent postmaster forum to look at topics including marketing, product innovation and opportunities for automation.

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