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The Post Office Ltd provides a range of products and services to the public through its network of post office branches. As well as postal services, post offices offer access to banking services and cash, and certain government services. 

The Post Office is owned by the government, through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UK Government Investments (UKGI), however the Post Office Ltd Board has responsibility for the operations of the Post Office.

The Post Office Ltd Board remains accountable to the government for the performance of the Post Office. They must also maintain at least 11,500 branches which are subject to access requirements.

The overall number of post offices has been relatively stable since 2009, although the overall network size has declined since the 1980s. At the end of March 2020, the Post Office network had 11,638 branches.

Post office branches operate under different contract types. There are three main types of post office:

  • Crown post office branches: those post offices that are directly managed by Post Office Ltd.
  • Agency post office branches: post offices owned and managed by either an independent postmaster or a larger franchise partner (for example WH Smith or the Co-operative).
  • Outreach services: typically small part-time branches that may use a village hall or mobile van to provide post office services to communities that might not otherwise receive them.

The past decade has seen a fall in Crown post offices, which are directly managed by the Post Office.  There has also been a reduction in the number of the more traditional agency branches and a substantial rise in the number of outreach services. Outreach services rose from 1% of the total post office network in 2000 to 15% in March 2020.

The number of temporarily closed post offices has also increased in recent years, with Citizens Advice stating that the number of temporarily closed post offices has doubled since 2013.

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