01 May 1997

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY, with the backing of the Treasury, is to review the options for allowing greater commercial freedom to the Post Office, whilst rejecting full or partial privatisation. Ian McCartney, trade and industry minister, acknowledged that the PO had been restrained by 'unnecessary and damaging shackles' from developing its full potential, meeting the challenge of new technologies such as e-mail and fax, and competing in overseas and domestic markets. The Government will, however, ensure 'that competition between the Post Office and the private sector takes place on a fair and transparent basis.' The news was welcomed by Post Office management, whose top priority is to form joint ventures with airlines and transport companies. They also hope to be unshackled from the public sector bor-rowing requirement, enabling it to borrow on a normal commercial basis. The Government’s most likely option is to transform the PO into a public corporation, conferring greater freedom whilst still maintaining the flow of substantial funds to the Treasury. The announcement was received with equal enthusiasm by the CWU, which hailed it as 'marvellous news for local communities, customers, postal workers and for the Union.'