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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Blair '100% behind' public Post Office
Blair at the POst Office
Tony Blair popping in to a post office last month
Downing Street has insisted that the government remains committed to a publicly owned Post Office following comments from the industry's new regulator.

Graham Corbett was reported as saying that he would consider opening up competition for mail sent for less than a pound.

Such a move would strip the Post Office of its monopoly in the industry.

But a Downing Street spokesman said the government was "100% committed" to a universal service, with deliveries every day of the working week at a standard rate.

He said Mr Corbett was setting out his early thoughts having "just come into his job".

Any proposed changes would have to be included in a report to Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers and would require an order before Parliament, he said.

Job cuts

Mr Corbett, who takes up his role as Post Office regulator next week, told The Times newspaper he would consider opening up to competition the 1-or-less market, which accounts for the majority of postal items.

Such a proposal would raise the prospect of job cuts to the 160,000-strong workforce, with Mr Corbett hinting at the option of redundancies to improve efficiency.

He said: "The Post Office will be incentivised to cut costs and ensure a more efficient system. The most effective way it could do this is through the labour force. That is its highest cost."

Mr Corbett said he was "not ruling out" the idea of eliminating the monopoly and was also considering linking stamp costs to an inflation-linked pricing plan to encourage the Post Office to make efficiency gains.

Last year, ministers put off a decision on whether to cut the monopoly limit from 1 to 50p.

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Lifeline for village post offices
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