THE BLOG
27/11/2013 09:19 GMT | Updated 27/01/2014 05:59 GMT

Here's Something Which Might Surprise You About the Post Office - We Are Not the Royal Mail

I know, I know. Of course you knew that.

But as we at the Post Office - an independent business, not being privatised, not part of Royal Mail - launch the next phase of our strategy to build the business, you'd be surprised how many people are confused about the difference. To clarify, Post Office operate the network of branches and Royal Mail delivers letters and parcels.

Maybe we shouldn't be so puzzled. We have, after all, worked with Royal Mail colleagues for almost 400 years. Our separation was entirely amicable, only took place last year and we do of course continue to work closely with Royal Mail, not least through a long term agreement which lasts into the next decade.

But independent we are, and "Securing the Future", the plan Postal Minister Jo Swinson announced today, is aimed at driving forward a strategy which will secure the future of one of the UK's oldest businesses for generations to come.

Our aim is to support and develop our unique network of more than 11,500 branches, transform the business to be more attuned to customer demand and reduce our reliance on taxpayer subsidy.

In doing so, we will not only seek to ensure that the largest retail network in the UK (supported online and on the phone) thrives but that we also remain true to our role in communities, offering more support to branches which are the only shop in the village or community through a new £20m fund.

The core of Securing the Future, is the Post Office's role as a commercial business with a public purpose. We are privileged to be blessed with huge trust, built up over decades. We remain at the heart of thousands of communities. And our range of products is unique, from mails to mortgages, government services to homephone and broadband.

So as we transform our branches - and maintain the network at its current size - with longer opening hours and more modern environments, we will do so with our role in communities at the forefront of our planning.

The changes are driven by customer demand. The nine to five world is not fit for purpose in the competitive marketplace in which we are lead players. Busy and changing lifestyles in an increasingly digital world demand that we change faster.

So we have already transformed 1,400 branches so they are open longer and with a more flexible approach. Now we have secured funding from government for three years post 2015 which will allow us to complete the overhaul and enhancement of our entire network.

As we do, however, we are determined to remain true to our public purpose at the heart of communities. Hence investment in the only shops in communities. Where in the past there have been closure programmes, now Securing the Future provides investment to help develop thriving post offices.

And as high streets and shopping parades struggle to define their 21st century role, we plan to be at the heart of communities, doing more to connect citizens with key products and services, online as well as in branch.

Our plans to grow the business and modernise will see us expand in financial services - we are successfully piloting three current accounts for instance - and ensure we remain the UK's number one mails retailer.

We will build into fresh areas in relation to home services, as we've done with homephone and broadband, while ensuring that our key role as a front office for government services will support0 digital public services provision.

We are, as this demonstrates, a unique business - commercially focused but with a clear public purpose. And, just to recap, independent and publicly owned.