Can We Afford to Let Royal Mail Fail?

It is worrying that the words ‘Royal Mail’ and ‘insolvency’ are being bandied around in the same sentence.  And increasingly frequently.  A service, which can trace its origins back to 1516 is teetering due to multiple factors––‘strikes’ if you listen to management; ‘management’ if you listen to the strikers.  Royal Mail is currently being investigated by Ofcom, accused of failing to fulfil part of its universal service obligation to deliver letters to all parts of the UK six days per week.  If Ofcom need a witness to this failing, I would be prepared to put my hand up and oblige.

I have long been thinking that my mail is not being delivered as often as it used to be.  Typically, I now receive a delivery twice a week, rather than every day and, then when it does arrive, it is clearly a great stack of letters, which have been allowed to accumulate over several days in the sorting office.

What is more frustrating is that this downturn in service has coincided with me starting to use Royal Mail’s home collection service.  On paper, this service sounds too good to be true, but that it the problem.  It is.

What is supposed to happen with Royal Mail’s home collection service is that if I have a parcel to send, I can pay for the postage online and then my local post-person will collect it from me the next day when they are doing their delivery-round, bringing with them a prepaid address label to stick on the package.  Fantastic.  It saves a trip to the Post Office, and actually works out cheaper.  But…  So far, 50% of my collections have not happened at all.  I am sent an apologetic email from Royal Mail later the same day advising me to either arrange another collection or to suggest that I take the parcel off to my nearest Post Office.  This has been particularly irritating in the case of a couple of Special Delivery items, which I have wanted to send, and where I have paid a premium rate for them to be delivered next day, and where they have not even been collected, let alone delivered. 

I don’t like to kick a dog when it is already down, and I massively respect the work of hard-working posties up and down the country––it is one of the few ‘proper jobs’, which is left, in my book––but my recent travails with Royal Mail are making me increasingly unsympathetic to its cause.

But can we stand by and let Royal Mail fail?

Surely, if there was ever a need for renationalisation, this is it?  Allowing private enterprise to cherry-pick the profits while an essential basic service, which has existed since the time of Henry VIII flounders, cannot be in anyone’s best interests.

© Simon Turner-Tree

Simon Turner-Tree is a closet socialist.

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