by MONITOR
IS it just possible that Lord Mandelson will yet appear as a knight in shining armour to all those who have dismissed him as a devious and untrustworthy kind of a fellow? The possibility arises because, according to a leaked letter from him to the prime minister, he thinks that Britain's disappearing Post Office network could be saved if it became a significant player in financial services -“offering a wider range of attractive products within easy reach of the whole population, available from an institution they can trust.” Peter Mandelson may be on to something here. Some 2'500 post offices - many of them in rural areas - are due to close in the near future and a very big question mark hangs over the role of the 11'500 that will then remain. It is said that the network is losing four million pounds a week but its supporters believe that it offers a unique public service especially in those rural areas with poor public transport services to the nearest town. In his letter Mandelson says that 24 million people visit a post office each week and argues that this offers a valuable “face-to-face” contact between customer and service which is becoming increasingly rare in high street banks - and, indeed, in government offices. The Post Office has been examined and re-examined too often in recent years but Lord Mandelson's proposal is certainly worth serious consideration.

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