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Post offices struggle as bank branches close
The Post Office’s (PO) banking remuneration is “completely unsustainable” and leaves stores unable to cope with increased demand due to high-street bank branch closures, according to experts.
Retailers, the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) and politicians all criticised the PO, as Santander announced an additional 140 bank branch closures.
One store owner explained: “Post offices have rightly filled the gap [left by bank branch closures]. However, the commission rates are so low that it is not financially viable. Taking in one of the new fake £20 notes wipes out the earnings on £60,000 of deposits. Post Office has also not provided any note-checking equipment.”
For handling a £1,000 cash deposit in one of its branches, Santander charges customers £7, but PO retailers said they receive between 24p and 35p from the PO for the same transaction.
An NFSP spokesperson told RN: “Research shows subpostmasters are paid the equivalent of less than £2 per hour for business banking deposits – which is completely unsustainable.”
Facebook is still aiding UK’s illicit tobacco trade
Research by RN has revealed that Facebook is continuing to aid in the sale of illicit tobacco across the UK.
A one-hour search of the site’s online marketplace, regional selling pages and individual profiles uncovered 100 active illicit sellers.
At least a third had been online for over a week and 40% were from longstanding Facebook users with real individual accounts.
Following a Sunday Times investigation a year ago that identified the same issue, Facebook defended itself as having the necessary moderators and digital tools to stamp out illicit trade on the site.
However, retailers told RN the company has refused to take down posts by sellers, even when told of the problem. “I always report to Facebook, but they ignore it,” said one newsagent. “Facebook ignoring them when told is the worst part,” said another.
North-south split in regional crime statistics
Regions of England and Wales already heavily affected by shoplifting are still experiencing surges in reported offences, despite an overall 1% decline in incidents across the two nations.
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for the year ending September 2018 revealed 378,656 shoplifting instances. Cleveland, in north-east England, suffered the highest crime rate per 1,000 residents with a 16% rise from 13.1 to 15.3 instances. The area has held the top spot for the past three years.
The next four worst areas for shoplifting were Humberside, with 11.1 crimes per 1,000 (16% increase); the north east, with 10.3 crimes (5% increase); Northumbria, with 9.7 crimes (2% decline); and Nottinghamshire, with 9.5 crimes (17% increase).
Typically, areas in the north experienced the highest levels of shoplifting and the largest rises, while areas in the south experienced year-on-year drops in offences and also had the lowest offences per 1,000 residents. Shoplifting across Sussex, Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall, and Surrey dropped by 7% on average.
The reported crime stats also show a gulf between what is reported and what takes place. The reported offences in the latest release account for just 7.43% of the shoplifting incidents retailers experience, based on the Home Office’s 2017 Commercial Victimisation Survey.
NFRN national president Mike Mitchelson told RN: “The regional increases show shoplifting is still a serious issue in locations where policing efforts have been stripped back. The issue can only be tackled if retailers report any instances of shoplifting to the police,”