Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 70 Series
Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive
Title: Post Office: Advisory Councils
Level of description: Series
Extent: 110 volumes, 5 files
Name of creator(s): Post Office
A system of outside consultation of Post Office administration was initiated by Herbert Samuel, the Postmaster General, as early as 1913 in the form of local telegraph and telephone committees. These were set up by chambers of commerce, trade or, in their absence, by local authorities. In 1921 Frederick G Kellaway, the Postmaster General, under pressure from the Federation of British Industries, set up a national body known as the Post Office Advisory Committee. This was the direct ancestor of bodies still operating today. These committees had only a limited effect, mainly on particular details of the running of the service, and they did not have much impact. By the early 1930s, the national council was meeting very infrequently. In the years immediately following World War Two the local committees were revamped to cover all aspects of Post Office work.
In August 1969 it was decided to establish a Users Council. This was titled the Post Office Users National Council (POUNC). Its aim was to represent at national level the interests of the users of Post Office services, to ensure the existence of adequate consultative arrangements at local level, to receive proposals from the Postmaster General, and to make recommendations to him about the services.
These powers were established under the 1969 Post Office Act. POUNC was an independent statutory body, funded by the Department of Trade and Industry. It was modelled on the consultative or consumers councils of the major nationalised industries. It covered the whole of the British Isles, and three country councils covering Scotland, Wales and Monmouthshire and Northern Ireland. These councils were independent from The Post Office. An independent chairman, (although appointed by the Postmaster General), sat with thirty two members who were unpaid, except for reasonable out of pocket expenses. All members were appointed on 1 January 1970 and would serve, initially for three years. These members formed a cross section of Post Office users, and, as they served in a personal not a delegate capacity, were free to express their own views, and to represent the views of the ordinary Post Office user. Some of its work was delegated to individual committees, one for postal matters, one for telecommunications, other committees were formed as the need arose. From its establishment the Post Office provided a secretary and premises. The work of the council would arise from matters put to it by the Post Office, the public, and local advisory committees. This gave the local advisory committees a direct link to Post Office headquarters, something not previously available to them. POUNC maintained close liaison with Advisory Committees, receiving regular reports of their meetings, and circulating a periodic POUNC newsletter.
Between 180 and 200 Post Office Advisory Committees existed in 2000 throughout the United Kingdom. New committees were often formed and existing committees merged, when for example, a Head Postmaster's area of responsibility was enlarged. Membership was drawn from local authorities, commercial organisations, local voluntary bodies, and individuals. The committees were non-statutory. Post Office managers attended meetings to explain Post Office policy and answer questions about local issues. The aim was to increase the confidence of the business community in the Post Office. Advisory Councils acted as liaison points between the Post Office and the local community on matters of mutual concern. Prior to the enactment of the Post Office Act of 1969 Advisory Committees were sponsored and, in some cases, financially supported by bodies such as the Post Office itself, Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Trade and Local Authorities.
On 1 January 2001, the Secretary of State transferred all the property, rights and liabilities of the Post Office Users' National Council to Postwatch. The following was based on information taken from the Royal Mail Group website (http://www.royalmailgroup.com) in November 2006:
Postwatch (initially called the Consumer Council for Postal Services) was established to promote the interests of users of postal services within the framework of the Postal Services Act 2000. It replaced the Post Office Users' National Council (POUNC) and had a more extensive regional structure.
Postwatch was responsible for monitoring postal service standards and acts as a focus for consumer issues and complaints. It was consulted on key decisions including variations in the services for which postal licences were required, the granting and modification of licences, and the enforcement of licence conditions. Together with the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm), Postwatch also monitored and advised on the network of Post Office branches.
Postwatch stated that its role was to protect, promote and develop the interests of all customers of postal services in the UK. It campaigned for a better overall postal service for customers, advising Government, the Regulator and Royal Mail Group on consumer views, demands and needs.
Postwatch had a network of nine regional committees around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The chairman of each committee sat on the National Council. The regional committees included; Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England, Wales, Midlands, East of England, Greater London, South East England, and the South and West. Postwatch also established the Counters Advisory Group 'to identify, consider and act on consumer concerns about issues affecting the post office network and to inform Postwatch's national policy development and campaigning work.' Postwatch also conducted research into consumer views.
According to information taken from Postwatch's website (http://www.postwatch.co.uk/) in September 2009, the body was merged with energywatch and the National Consumer Council (including the Welsh and Scottish Consumer Councils) on 1 October 2008 to create Consumer Focus, an organisation established to support the rights of consumers in England, Scotland, Wales and, for post, Northern Ireland.
Scope and content/abstract:
This Post Class comprises reports, minutes, papers, leaflets and newsletters produced by Post Office Advisory Councils. These were external bodies set up to liaise with users of the Post Office, to monitor and review the performance and activities of the business and advise the Post Office on matters of mutual concern to the customer and the business.
ACCESS AND USE
Language/scripts of material: English
System of arrangement:
See Scope and Content for further information.
Conditions governing access:
Conditions governing reproduction:
Please contact the archive for further information.
Please contact the Archive for further information.
Immediate source of acquisition:
Please contact the Archive for further information.
Information on Postwatch and Consumer Focus taken from website, www.postwatch.co.uk, Aug 2005 and Sep 2009, and www.royalmailgroup.com, Aug 2005, Nov 2006.
Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
Date(s) of descriptions: EAD transfer validated May 2011