Shropshire’s daily postal service could be lost forever

Have you received your post today? Enjoy it while you can, because Shropshire’s daily postal service is in peril.

Post

The Royal Mail has given its starkest warning yet that rural areas should not presume that the existing deliveries will continue.

That means that Shropshire and Mid Wales may soon have to put up with a service every other day, or less.

It is a prospect that has angered the Country Land and Business Association, which points out that many parts of our region rely on the old fashioned post.

After all, internet and mobile phone coverage is patchy. Unlike big cities, rural areas can’t always pick up messages online or by text. Financial transactions that are completed electronically in urban areas aren’t always a realistic prospect where broadband is non existent.

The CLA says any change to the universal Royal Mail service could spell disaster for people who live or work in rural areas.

CLA Midlands regional director Caroline Bedell, who lives in Shawbury, near Shrewsbury, says: “The daily post is, and must remain, an intrinsic part of rural life. Without it, rural services, which are already under significant strain, will be seriously undermined – a situation made even worse by the lack of broadband and mobile coverage in many rural areas.

“The suggestion that Royal Mail is seeking to amend, or possibly abolish the Universal Service Obligation in the future, is a serious threat to everyone living and working in the countryside.

“If anything, the USO should be extended, not removed.”

Mrs Bedell says the CLA will be writing to post regulator Ofcom saying that the concept of a universal postal service, where letters are delivered for a flat rate anywhere in the country, should be extended to other operators in the postal market.

“We recognise that a company like Royal Mail must seek to generate profit,” she says.

“However, this has to be addressed through achieving fair competition, not removing a vital service from rural consumers.”

Partially privatised

Ever since Rowland Hill devised the Penny Post in 1840, the concept of the universal postal service has been a fundamental cornerstone of Royal Mail.

And when Royal Mail was partially privatised last year, Business Secretary Vince Cable insisted it was the only way to protect the universal delivery service.

Then Business Minister Michael Fallon gave the assurance: “The six-days-a-week universal one-price-goes-anywhere service is absolutely separate and the ownership of Royal Mail can’t affect that.”

But 14 months on, Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene has warned that the service is under threat after all.

While the Postal Services Act 2011, which paved the way for privatisation, included a clause requiring a commitment to delivering letters six days a week to all parts of Britain for the same price, there was also a clause saying that this was with regard to the universal service being “financially sustainable”. And now Miss Greene says rival companies which are under no legal obligation to provide services in less lucrative rural areas — such as Shropshire — are threatening the sustainability of the service.

“The threat is now,” says Miss Greene.

She is urging that the Government should overhaul rules which allow other companies to “cherry pick” cheaper letter deliveries around big cities.

This week Royal Mail announced a £70 million fall in its profits due to internet giant Amazon setting up its own delivery network.

Miss Greene says an urgent change in the rules is needed to “secure the sustainable provision of the universal service for the future”.

Graham Biggs, the Craven Arms based chief executive of the Rural Services Network, also fears for the sustainability of the postal service in the countryside, and says if nothing is done it could affect the rural economy as a whole.

He says Ofcom has a legal duty to protect the universal service, as well as the power to review the situation, but says the regulator has been reluctant to step in.

“Ofcom’s reluctance to act puts the wellbeing and livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas across the UK at risk,” says Mr Biggs. “If Ofcom continues to refuse to bring forward a review, the UK government should legislate to enable the Secretary of State to order a review.”

The Communication Workers Union, which represents postal workers, blames the Royal Mail privatisation for the threat.

Deputy general secretary Dave Ward says unrestricted competition in the postal sector would make it difficult for Royal Mail to sustain its duty to deliver the universal service obligation in the coming years.

He said: “As we approach the busiest time of the year for Royal Mail, postmen and women will be working hard delivering letters and parcels six-days-a-week, right up to Christmas Eve.

“But amid such unfettered competition in the postal sector, it will be difficult for Royal Mail to sustain its duty to deliver the universal service obligation in the coming years.

“We need Ofcom to perform its primary statutory duty by urgently reviewing the threat competition poses to the universal postal service.

“We’d like to see a cap put on competition to Royal Mail.”

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Comments for: "Shropshire’s daily postal service could be lost forever "

PJS

A direct result of another failing Tory privatisation - whenever blind dogma is put ahead of service provision, this kind of thing results...

A C Allen

Anyone wondering why the Post Office was privatised needs to look at the EU postal directives (Directive 97/67/EC -"Privatisation of Postal Services", issued on December 15, 1997, as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC and as further amended by Directive2008/06/EC). The idea was to establish the Single Market for Postal services and open up the sector to competition.

thedodo

Oh come off it. Same old anti EU rubbish. The government can carry on subsidizing the service to guarantee the universal service if operators lose money on certain routes ie rural Shropshire.

We need to remember State subsidy is needed in many areas of universal provision ie BT superfast broadband roll out - again in rural areas.

British companies can run postal services in other EU member state countries so the 'playing field' is level.

The Royal Mail doesn't fit with political/economic policy of both Labour and Tory/Lib Dem. It's simply free market economics, the same policy begun by M Thatcher 30 odd years ago.

Orthodox free market economics exist everywhere now inc Russia and in reality China.

If we came out of the EU the government policy would be exactly the same but we would struggle to have equal position with the remaining EU countries - hence the position of the CBI.

celtictiger

'And now Miss Greene says rival companies which are under no legal obligation to provide services in less lucrative rural areas — such as Shropshire — are threatening the sustainability of the service.'

Well duh,that's what happens when you privatise a company that has a universal obligation.

Rival companies aren't interested in rural deliveries,she knew this when she took over.Hey Miss Greene gets a massive wage as well as massive pension for this insight.Well done Vince you and Greene were all for this privatisation and you reap what you sew.Short sightedness by greedy business people and politicians.Now rural areas will suffer for your greed,hope you're satisfied.

thedodo

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/postal_services/overview_en.html

Try reading the actual new rules on postal services and competition.

Roger

This is not about the service, that is enshrined in law. It is about how you pay for it. If they charge more for letters then people will go to the competitors so that is not viable because they will still have to deliver them. So they have to charge their competitors for the service through wholesale charges for delivery. This is how BT handles to Universal Service Requirement on land line telephones. If they were allowed to, it is how they could handle universal Broadband but in that case the governments, UK and EU, have decided to support the capital spend on providing the network. In the case of rural letter deliveries there is no significant capital out lay so it would need to be a direct operating subsidy.

It is a political issue as to how it will be achieved and a fundamental weakness in the privatisation process that it was not dealt with before the issue.

However the service was disclosed in the issue prospectus so the people who bought the shares were fully aware of the obligation when they bought them.

Dependant on the outcome of the next election there are many ways this could be dealt with. As speculated by the SS if we have a Tory government they could reduce or cancel the obligation. If it was labour they could renationalise it at it's true value of peanuts but would still need to fund the service if it is loss making in order to keep Royal Mail competitive. Or do what BT did and place the requirement in a single function subsidiary just to deliver mail funded through the industry.

In any event the whole thing is regulated and the costs set outside the businesses. The regulator will decide how and how much to charge the industry for deliveries.

Which way this goes depends on who gets elected. If Shropshire is a typical rural county the electorate can't be asked to vote, so it will be Tory by default and the service will disappear in exactly the same way the Council is Tory by default and destroys services and hands over what's left to the private sector. It's just the same with broadband and cell phones the Tories will give you anything that costs them nothing and the private sector can make money on it. If not then no service.

I would not expect Labour to maintain the existing service because mail is in decline. but I can envisage that rural post boxes will disappear and be replaced by collection from the local sub post office. I can see that urgent mail could be delivered, at a premium, but otherwise weekly deliveries. I do not see them removing the service altogether because there is a legal requirement to deliver certain items and Royal Mail need to do it, to satisfy legal needs. Where as the Tories might change that concept in law.

The whole concept of Royal Mail privatisation was flawed in the first place and as they say "you cant make a silk purse from a pigs ear".

Derp

Conservatives...

The first time in years Royal Mail makes a profit, they sell it off to their mates for a quick buck. "George Osborne’s best man got £36m from the privatisation of Royal Mail in under six months"

Also, the UK taxpayer lost £1bn after Royal Mail shares were undervalued. I like how the Conservatives got that rat-faced Vince Cable to do their dirty work though.

Now look what's happening. Royal Mail is in the news complaining about competition and it looks like we are going to lose rural post. Profits before service. All within a year of it being privatised.

But let us not forget, George Osbourne telling us "Royal Mail sale 'secured its future'": http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28270366

Tory scumbag liars. George Osbourne is also lying about the UK economy. The Conservatives, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats, have nearly doubled our national debt since 2010. It is now £1.4 trillion. Osbourne has borrowed more in the last four-and-a-half years than Labour did in 13 years.

We will be feeling the after effects of this despicable Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition for years to come.

And yet people still keep defending the Conservatives and believing their lies.

Derp

I wonder why we can't comment on this Shropshire article? "Osborne set to miss deficit target":

http://www.shropshirestar.com/shropshire-business/city-news/2014/11/21/treasury-hit-by-housing-slowdown/

intheknow

Ahh Derp i wondered when you would come out from under your stone. The reason why the tories have had to borrow so much is that under the previous administration they spent money like their was no tomorrow on vanity projects and giving everybody in the public sector a very nice pay rise. Even in the boom years Brown borrowed £20 billion to balance the budget. Then of course he didnt regulate the bankers and left an unholy mess to be cleared up. The problems we have now financially can be laid fairly and squarely at Labours door.

thedodo

The Tories will be spouting that old chestnut for the whole of the next parliament if they win.

Growth is flat pretty much everywhere.

Not sure which vanity projects you are talking about - Sure Start? Huge investment in the NHS?

Who were the public sector workers who got a "very nice pay rise"?

Contrary to what Mr Osbourne would like people to believe all governments run a deficit - the BS about comparing government spending with a household or a credit card is spurious to say the least.

The thing he was guilty of was not enough bank regulation - but the Tories positively encouraged it. After all that's where many of them work or have directorships.

Your comment simply regurgitates Daily Mail nonsense.

Roger

Inthe know

Yes labour did borrow at 20 billion a year at times before the crash but at other times they operated at a surplus. After the crash their borrowing rose to 50 billions a year before a one off boost to the economy to bring forward capital investments and boost the economy out of recession. Sound Kenysian economics instead of Monetarism. The boost to bring us out of recession in 2011 was strangled in 2010 by the Tory financial review and austerity replaced it bring us back to a sustained recession but continuing to need £100 billion a year in borrowing. Double the rate pre the boost. It is still around £100 Billion a years and is now starting to rise again. Instead of investing in capital projects we are sustaining unemployment and under employment and topping up low wages which is all current account spend with nothing to show for it. It is actually costing more to sustain poverty than it would cost in the medium term to put the people back to work and pay them properly.

The fundamental economic theory that drives this government is the same one that caused the crash. Only if we change our ways will be ever recover. Europe has follow the austerity route and now their economies are dipping again. Austerity is locking who ever uses it into a longer and longer recession.

Are we in recovery? how does it feel? are you better off than you were in 2010. This government is only good at one thing and that is making the poor poorer and bending the statistics to make it look better than it is on paper. How many unemployed? the JSA count and not count the ESA job seeking group or anybody on universal credit One million or nearer three million? Before you count the job seeking economically inactive. What is inflation CPI or RPI? RPI is more actuate than CPI but it would means that we are 10 to 15% worse off than the statistics imply. So George is the first ever Chancellor to use the measure and has done so to entrench poverty and improve measurements of everything.

Trust your gut measurement of how well we are doing. We have cut all services savagely and are borrowing at twice the rate we used to in the depth of the recession with out the capital boost. The Tories are doubling borrowing to sustain unemployment, low pay and under employment whilst cutting the taxes of the wealthy. It is disastrous economic management covered by lies.

The same in the local authority we are are paying no less council tax but we sure are not getting the services we used to. Where is all the money going? To the outsourcing companies of course, and we still don't know what we are paying IP&E for. The support grants have all been cut so why is borrowing rising? Incompetent management covered by lies.

A C Allen

When you look at the dates of the EU postal directives (Directive 97/67/EC -"Privatisation of Postal Services", issued on December 15, 1997, as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC and as amended by Directive2008/06/EC) you will see that it was not the Conservatives who were in power at the time. The Coalition can be blamed for a lot of things, but this one was started on Labour's watch. The restriction of the Royal Mail's monopoly to letters of a certain weight meant foreign firms could cherry pick the profitable sectors, leaving the Royal Mail with the obligation for universal delivery. If you really want to apportion blame, you should be pointing the finger at Brussels.

mutuality

Well said Derp.

The Corporate State wishes that everyone embraces the urban lifestyle, consumerism, materialism, privatisation, 'economic growth', spend all your hard earned low wages at developments like Southwater in Telford on unethical, corrupt corporate tax evading businesses....in the meantime disenfranchise residents and tenants in rural towns and villages and cutback on rural postal services. The Royal Mail as predicted has been 'sold down the river'....just like what they are trying to do with the NHS and public ownership within Shropshire Council.

This undemocratic and shockingly corrupt government does not care about any of you. All they want you to do is be passive and obedient so they can carry on with their 'control and fear' agenda and 'divide and rule' policies.

Time for a mass mobilisation of people power and local democracy.....can't wait to May 7th 2015.

Derp

Have you ever noticed the Tory Shropshire Star rabble never have anything to say on stories such as these?

Roger

Of course they do.They want Rural Broadband and better mobile phone services to which they will add sustaining rural mail services. Problem is they have no idea how to pay for it.

They just expect profit orientated companies to lose money providing the services. Cloud Cuckoo Land.

That is why public utilities are best operated in the public sector where costs can be spread through cross subsidisation providing the common good rather than pure greed of profits. Utilities belong in the public sector in which the level of service is politically set and politicians are answerable to the public. Not set by the profit motive in which company directors are answerable to their shareholders. The two systems are incompatible and the private sector is incapable of investing enough to provide non profit making ventures like infrastructure development with no return for years before the end user provides a return. Why build a power stations to anticipate political closure of old stations it takes years to get a pay back. The government will step in with the funding and underwrite the profits when they see the lights going out. Why prevent floods if the insurance companies cover the risks? because they would cover properties at risk and increase charges for those not at risk and cream off the profits. How did we get better trains? by allowing the rolling stock companies and franchisees to make a profit on it by increasing fares above RPI. Cut the government expenditure and let the consumers pay at double the rate of savings and let the private sector take their cut. Economic madness. The lights will go out, we will turn them off because we can't afford it or they will turn them off because they don't have the capacity, but the lights will go off.

SillySarah

The 'Royal Snail' gets slower!

edski675

Funny. I'm sure I commented. It would be nice if the editor bothered to email to explain why deleted. Do you want contributons or don't you? And if you do, I suggest stop being prissy.

morceau placard

My comment vanished as well !!!! obviously too subtle for them to comprehend the hidden meaning ...

Cj

privatisation reduces service quality and increases costs for everyone rural areas like shropshire will suffer the most you dont need a phd to know that dr cable and it was said at the time but the theiving condems ignored it to steal some taxpayers money to give to their chums in the city nice work if you can get it

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