By Max Clarke

Bank customers should be granted full access to their accounts via the Post Office network, a consumer group has said.

Doing so would boost the number of people using their local Post Office to access their current accounts to as many as 18 million, providing a lifeline for the institution and its customers with limited mobility, a report by Consumer Focus suggests.

The service would allow customers to make cash withdrawals, deposit cash and cheques and access information on their account balance at the Post Office. This would offer more accessibility and convenience to customers, particularly in areas where local bank branches have closed or are some distance away, and could also give the post office network a valuable shot in the arm.

“Our research shows there is real consumer appetite to do everyday banking over the post office counter,” said Consumer Focus’ Post Office expert, Andy Burrows. “Four out of five people were unaware they could access their account through a post office with two-fifths of this group telling us they would consider doing so if they knew it was possible.”

Extending access at post offices would particularly benefit rural consumers who have been hit hard by bank branch closures. Around a third of bank and building society branches have closed in the last 15 years, with more than a fifth of the total (2,200 branches closing since the year 2000 .5 There are now more post offices in the UK than bank and building society branches combined6 and the post office network offers nine or ten times as many branches as some leading banks.

“Thousands of UK communities have only one bank branch or even none at all, “ continued Burrows, “with more bank closures likely in the future. Better current account access at the Post Office would be a win-win situation — customers enjoy the convenience of more face-to-face counter access and the post office network benefits from greater footfall. This should help lead to a more sustainable future for the post office network which many people rely upon.”

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