BBC confirms RM’s parcel priority

Panorama evidence contradicts Ofcom and Royal Mail claims over importance of letters


Shocking evidence that Royal Mail is routinely prioritising parcels over letters and cards, forcing people to travel to collect their own post from sorting offices, has been uncovered by BBC’s Panorama reporters.

As greeting card publishers Ling, GBCC and Cardology, along with the GCA, are among those seeking justice and honesty the tv documentary broadcast on Monday night, 26 February, totally contradicted Royal Mail’s claims and industry watchdog Ofcom’s assertion that it has seen no evidence of such a policy.

Above: Mum Jasmine Moulton (right) became emotional as she told reporter Zoe Conway about her children’s missed medical appointments due to Royal Mail’s poor service
Above: Mum Jasmine Moulton (right) became emotional as she told reporter Zoe Conway about her children’s missed medical appointments due to Royal Mail’s poor service

The show included interviews with a family who missed a vital operation for their sick child after receiving no letters for a month, and people having to visit the sorting office to be sure of picking up medical appointments, police letters and birthday cards.

Panorama reporter Zoe Conway spoke to a number of RM postal staff – all shown with their identities hidden – who said they’d been told to prioritise parcels, and Cheshire mum Jasmine Moulton whose two young children have complex medical needs but only discovered they had missed two appointments and an operation in December after NHS staff rang to ask what had happened.

Focusing on the Winsford delivery office which is just four miles from the Moultons’ home and understood to be the worst performing in the UK for letters, Panorama sent a tracked first-class letter at £1.25 to the family only to find it took 10 days to deliver, more than twice as long as the next worst in Oxford – and one letter from December about the children’s appointments has yet to arrive.

Jasmine explained she’d had no letters for a month when she was called about the missed surgery and added: “They’re just not prioritising the letters at all. Get it sorted, do your job!”

And the reporter visited the depot where she spoke to a number of people who had travelled in to collect their own mail as it is not being delivered to their homes.

Above & top: At the Winsford Delivery Office this woman showed her birthday card and letters she has to collect herself
Above & top: At the Winsford Delivery Office this woman showed her birthday card and letters she has had to collect herself

One woman said she goes two or three weeks without post then receives a “chunk” of letters so now picks up her mail on Saturdays, and she showed Zoe a bundle including a police letter and a very late birthday card from her grandmother in Wales who’d been so upset the greeting card hadn’t arrived she’d promised to send a second one.

Jenny Hall, director of corporate affairs at Royal Mail, told the BBC she was going to investigate the sorting office “as a priority”, and added: “That is not acceptable, and I apologise Jasmine. I’ve got young children myself and I know that must have been hugely stressful for you.”

As the programme also showed over 20 postal workers standing less than arms’ length apart to shuffle almost empty wheeled mail cages down a huge bare warehouse, David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill, owner of Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy, vented in a LinkedIn post straight after the broadcast: “Ofcom have told us they have seen no evidence of this prioritisation and they think there are no major productivity improvements to be found – I hope they were watching this evening!

“You really don’t need a qualification in time and motion studies to find a load of savings in the state-of-the-art super hub that was featured, as captured in the video below.”

“No wonder you’re loss making – imagine what happens when the cameras aren’t there. No offence to the 20-plus people pushing a trolley from one to the other but wouldn’t they be better employed as posties delivering our letters?”

Referring to Jenny Hall’s comment on the show that “people rely on letters”, David, who is also a GCA council member, added: “Let’s stop talking about putting up prices and start thinking about efficiency, delivering on time, getting the public’s trust back and sending more cards and letters. That will create more revenue – win-win.”

The programme follows Royal Mail’s ongoing bid to cut its legally-binding universal service obligation from having to deliver letters across the UK six days a week for the same price, and Ofcom’s 2023 investigation where it accepted the postal giant’s assertion it does not prioritise parcels but still fined the business £5.6million for missing delivery targets.

There was also the industry regulator’s release in January of its The Future Of The Universal Postal Service review, where it posited options including allowing RM to slash letter deliveries to just three days a week, and there’s the ongoing Post Office scandal where postmasters have been prosecuted and lost their livelihoods due to the faulty Horizon IT system.

With Panorama showing mp Anneliese Dodds, party chair for Labour, claiming to have been “misled” by Royal Mail over the state of letter deliveries, and the programme’s evidence indicating the company’s senior management must have been fully aware of the prioritisation policy, GCA council member and Cardology co-owner David Falkner yesterday raised a question with the mps covering both his home and business constituencies.

Above: Royal Mail workers’ identity was hidden as they revealed the parcels priority policy bosses enforce
Above: Royal Mail workers’ identity was hidden as they revealed the parcels priority policy bosses enforce

Copying in Kevin Hollinrake, the government minister responsible for small business, enterprise and markets, David asked mps Elliot Colburn and Sarah Jones: “Will this government invite Ofcom to re-open their 2023 investigation; considering this new evidence, as well as re-considering that obtained by this House’s BEIS Committee last year, and that revealed by the ground-breaking investigative work undertaken by two national newspapers last autumn, to ensure my constituents continue to receive the national, reliable and affordable postal delivery service they rightfully expect?”

David added his concern over the lack of regulatory scrutiny “critically, and unnecessarily, affecting my own business as well as Britain’s wider £1.5bn creative greeting card industry”.

GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson – who raised the industry’s concerns with Ofcom in a meeting just two weeks ago – was in dialogue with the association’s pr agents Arena PR and members of its Royal Mail sub-committee as the documentary aired, with a press release issued to the media early yesterday.

In the release Amanda commented: “Our members are deeply concerned that Panorama has uncovered further evidence that Royal Mail has been systemically prioritising parcel deliveries ahead of letters.

“This directly contradicts evidence given by Royal Mail to both Ofcom and to the government that its failure to meet the delivery standards laid out under the universal service obligation did not result from a change in policy.

“Panorama now confirms what our members have told us – Royal Mail continues to batch letters and deliver them behind parcels.”

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