Rural post offices to receive IT boost

The Government has announced a multimillion-pound investment in IT as part of its recently unveiled £450m support package for...

The Government has announced a multimillion-pound investment in IT as part of its recently unveiled £450m support package for rural post offices.

The funding, which will be spread over three years, will see £79m allocated to improve key services in the first year and £74m in the second and third years. The Government defines key services as IT systems, cash delivery and the delivery of forms and direct marketing material.

According to the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), the funding will help the UK's 8,500 rural post offices to continue to provide access to services for people living in country areas.

DTI officials said no specific figures are available on the breakdown of the IT funding, although a spokeswoman confirmed that the technology investment will help maintain the Post Office's Horizon computer system. "This is a multimillion-pound investment for modern, efficient IT systems," she said.

A spokesman for Post Office, which will administer the funding, said the investment will help to increase the range of services offered at its branches. "The IT investment will help the ability of our Horizon systems to increase the number of banking services offered at Post Office branches," he said.

As part of the announcement, a three-year, £25m flexible fund has also been allocated to develop innovative, modern methods of delivering services. Typical pilots could include mobile post offices and the co-location of post offices in pubs and hairdressers.

The Government is currently involved in projects to modernise benefits payments at both banks and post offices. The Department for Work and Pensions expects to have Post Office card accounts for receiving benefits, pensions and tax credit in place sometime in April 2003.

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