DTI announces cyber post office scheme

Cyber post offices to launch next May

Post Offices in Leicestershire will go cyber next year with the launch of a pilot scheme to make them access points for government information and the Internet.

Trade and Industry secretary Stephen Byers announced Thursday plans to train post office staff as government general practitioners so that they can teach and advise the public on how to access government services through the Internet. The £15m project will affect 283 post offices in Leicestershire from May next year as part of the government's UK Online initiative to have all government services online by 2005.

The "one stop shops" will offer benefits, welfare and citizens advice through the Internet and appointments with trained staff, as well as access to online services such as NHS Direct. If the experiment proves successful it will be employed by post offices across the country.

In the House of Commons Thursday Byers said: "As the largest retail network in Europe, which has gained the nation's trust through years of valuable service, the Post Office is uniquely placed to make a wide range of public services accessible to people throughout the UK." DTI minister Alan Johnson has been appointed "Ministerial Champion" to oversee the scheme.

Tory spokesperson Richard Page strongly objected to the government's announcement and called for Byers to "do the decent thing" and resign. Page criticised the DTI for "presiding over the meltdown of our sub-post offices in this country," on the grounds that two sub-post offices are closing down every day.

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