Labour and unions have accused ministers of presiding over a decline in Post Office services, as the Government announces a £370m investment aimed at securing rural branches.
The three-year funding deal was announced alongside figures showing the Post Office had made an annual profit – of £13m – for the first time in 16 years.
From next April, the Government said the Post Office would get £210m to continue to modernise the network of 11,600 Post Offices.
A further £160m would help protect smaller branches to maintain access in rural communities.
The Government said over £2bn it had spent since 2010 had already delivered extended opening hours and Sunday opening at larger stores.
Image: The Post Office says it is committed to maintaining branch numbers at their current level
But unions and Labour said the funding deal and profits were built on the back of sweeping cuts as the last funding deal – from 2015 to 2018 – was for £640m.
A spokesman for the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said: “While the Post Office and Government are dressing this up as good news, in reality the Post Office is facing a significant cut in Government funding for the next three years.
“The CWU wants to see a profitable and successful Post Office, but its financial results have been delivered on the back of closures, thousands of job losses and huge reductions in income for subpostmasters.
“The announcement marks a continuation of this strategy and is bad news for communities that rely on post offices across the country. Far from modernising the network this is managing its decline.”
Image: Rebecca Long-Bailey fears further branch closures ahead
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said: “The Conservatives’ claims about modernisation are code for closures, job losses and pay cuts.”
The Post Office argued its improved financial performance meant it was now less reliant on Government hand outs.
Its chief executive, Paula Vennells, said: “Making a profit for the first time in 16 years is a major milestone in the Post Office’s journey to a sustainable and successful business.
“We’re fulfilling the promises we have made, and this is recognised by the Government’s further investment in the Post Office, which will enable us to continue transforming the business to meet our customers’ changing needs – a transformation that has already seen us make significant progress.”
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Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The Post Office is at the heart of communities across the UK, with millions of customers and small businesses relying on their local branch every day to access a wide range of importantservices.
“With the network at its most stable in decades, this £370m of Government funding will ensure it can continue to modernise and bring further benefits to customers across the UK.”