Thursday, 5 September 2013

The last post?

The Royal Mail and the Post Office aren’t just part of our heritage, they’re a crucial
part of the lives of  families and businesses. This is especially true in rural areas, where the local post office acts as a focal point for communities.

43% of older people in rural areas use their local Post Office to access cash. Thousands of small rural businesses rely on postal services for ensuring customers get their goods and services on time, efficiently, reliably and at a reasonable price. Crucially, by law, the Royal Mail has to deliver mail to people six days a week, regardless of where they live. This is not the case in many countries.

Given that background, one has to ask why Messrs Cameron and Clegg are so determined to press ahead with the dangerous privatisation of Royal Mail, a proposal which they have failed to justify and which clearly doesn’t provide good value for the taxpayer.

Having refused last year, it is only after considerable pressure that the Government has now caved in and worked out the arrangements for a 10 year Inter-Business Agreement (IBA) between the Royal Mail and the Post Office. This is a vital link for the sustainability of our Post Office network.

However, there is no guarantee that a privatised Royal Mail will continue to support and use the Post Office network. In fact, it is more likely that it would want to break the historic link between the two.

Rural postal services will be under threat if Royal Mail is privatised because these
are the most costly to operate. To put it simply, profits on delivering urban post are subsidising rural post deliveries. Already in the UK, private parcel delivery firms, who operate in the interests of shareholders and not the public service, routinely charge a
significant premium for delivering to remote and rural areas. In some cases, they just refuse to deliver goods to these locations altogether.

Collections are also at risk. Did you know that more than 6500 post office collections had been scrapped in the last year? And new rules, implemented from June, inevitably mean that there will be fewer post boxes in future.

For some rural communities, the last post? Quite likely.