Last week I started a blog on the rising cost of sending letters and the declining standards of service from the Post Office (sorry, Royal Mail). See “Grumble Post” 1 dated 6th November 2011 or click on “GrumbleSmiles Post” in the Tag Cloud.
Why I am writing about this is because the post is a lifeline of communication for so many elderly people. It is their way of keeping in touch with family and friends. The majority of the older generation have not mastered e-mail and would not know a “Moonpig” if they saw one fly. That is why the prospect of a £1 charge to send a letter, especially at a time of rising energy and food costs, is so concerning to people on fixed incomes. The outcome can only lead to increased isolation and growing despair about the changing world around them.
How do you understand what’s happening when so many of the weasel words of explanation are designed to obscure the real position ? 😦
The facts of the situation are that over 2 billion letters are sent in the UK each year, but the bulk of Royal Mail’s 62 billion deliveries are business mail. Some years ago the then Government broke the GPO monopoly and opened up the postal service to competition. This allowed the private sector to cream off the most profitable parts of the business, but still left Postman Pat to deliver the occasional letter to the isolated farm in the Yorkshire Dales. Letter volumes have fallen 25% in the last 5 years, while Royal Mail letter revenue has nose-dived by £400 million. Last year its losses were £120 million.
Here is what some of the key players have said (and what they mean):-
- The Department of Business -alias Vince Cable – “Ofcom’s proposals should protect the universal service” (meaning – it won’t).
- The Regulator Ofcom said “there are significant risks in allowing Royal Mail to set its own prices” (meaning – watch out, costs are going up).
- Royal Mail said “stamp prices will remain affordable” (meaning – costs are going up and you won’t be able to afford them).
- Royal Mail executives said – “Royal Mail believes that the Ofcom proposals are a significant step towards securing a sound and sustainable service” (meaning – there is a lot more change ahead, jobs will be lost but we will be ok at the top).
- The Communication Workers Union said – “these appear to be major deregulatory steps from Ofcom and we broadly welcome the signal of a radically different approach to regulation” (meaning – “we don’t damn well like it but we have got no alternative”).
It is a strange old business strategy that in response to declining markets – puts prices up. Particularly when e-mail will continue to further erode the market for snail mail letters.
However, the real and inevitable political agenda for the last 10 years has been to sell off the Post Office and let the private sector do the dirty work of butchering the carcass of a once proud and beloved institution. Like many other state monopolies it had become too fat and happy, managed by overpaid and under-skilled executives, weakened by Trade Unions resistant to change and it has been far too slow to respond to the rapid changes in technology.
That is why this blog post is just one long “Dear John letter”‘ or do I mean epitaph.