Ofcom under more pressure over RM reforms

Public rallies round to keep six-day deliveries, pm reconfirms support and GCA shouts loudly

 

The pressure is increasing on Ofcom to rethink its proposals for reviving Royal Mail’s fortunes as the public rally round keeping the six-day delivery service, and the GCA is working harder than ever behind the scenes to ensure the industry’s voice is heard.

As the prime minister reconfirmed government support for keeping the current service, in just two days a petition is well on the way to getting the 75,000 signatures needed to raise the issue with mp Kevin Hollinrake, the minister responsible for postal service.

Above & top: Rishi Sunak (left) gets animated during Prime Minister’s Question Time as he confirms government support for the USO when MP Richard Thomson asked on Wednesday
Above & top: Rishi Sunak (left) gets animated during Prime Minister’s Question Time as he confirms government support for the USO when mp Richard Thomson asked on Wednesday

Organised on the 38 Degrees campaign platform, it states: “We, the public, won’t accept a reduced service because Royal Mail won’t take the necessary steps to improve performance. They shouldn’t enjoy bigger profits at the expense of their service to the public.

“Royal Mail have been under fire for their poor performance recently, and going down to three days a week is only going to hurt us, the public, who rely on them. We could be waiting for vital letters about medical appointments and legal documents, just so Royal Mail can make bigger profits.”

Following the release on Wednesday, 24 January, of Ofcom’s 106-page review The Future Of The Universal Postal Service – in which the regulator concluded reform is necessary to secure its long-term future because of the significant drop in letter volumes since 2011 –  the greeting card industry has also got behind moves to remind everyone about the importance of mail deliveries.

Above: Mean Mail’s Vicky Simmons was filmed for Channel 4 news
Above: Mean Mail’s Vicky Simmons was filmed for Channel 4 news

Greeting card publisher Mean Mail’s Vicky Simmons appeared on Channel 4 news that evening explaining how her most popular online order is for a single greeting card which she dispatches within 24 hours: “If you’re ordering a solo card you’re usually wanting to use it within a few days of ordering it. If customers don’t have the certainty it’ll turn up on time or if it takes up to a week then they’ll find other options.

“I also do a direct-to-recipient service – no one will want to send a birthday card if it won’t turn up on time.”

GCA council member Wendy Jones-Blackett had BBC Radio 5 Live Drive’s programme in her Leeds studio where she commented: “The greeting card industry are pushing for six days to remain because when you post a greeting card and birthday card or wedding car and baby card or something you need to know it’s going to get there when you expect.”

The GCA’s Royal Mail sub-committee has been busy since the news broke over the weekend that Ofcom’s review would suggest a cut to five or possibly three-day deliveries, which was confirmed when it was released on Wednesday.

Above: GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson has been espousing the industry’s views on numerous radio and tv shows this week
Above: GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson has been espousing the industry’s views on numerous radio and tv shows this week

“The GCAs #Cardmitment campaign has put us at the centre of the national debate this week. We are keen to take the lead on convening the conversation because it’s so important to our members, it’s also important for the country,” said ceo Amanda Fergusson.

And RM sub-committee lead David Falkner, who is also director of Cardology, added: “As a committee, we couldn’t reconcile the relatively recent drop in service delivery and significant Royal Mail losses with the narrative that this all stemmed from the long-term structural decline in letters volumes.

“Instinctively, we believed that reducing service levels and putting up stamp prices further would just trap Royal Mail in a doom spiral, and also wasn’t fair on the British public.  It appears much of the country felt similarly.

“Having now seen Ofcom’s supporting analysis, it appears this undercalls the impacts of last year’s service disruption on parcel, as well as letter, volumes. Including this adds further critical context to current consumer confidence, as well as Royal Mail’s present financial position, and leads to vastly different conclusions, which re-open opportunities to regain a thriving postal service, rather than just managing for decline.

Above: David Falkner and the RM sub-committee are working for a thriving Royal Mail service
Above: David Falkner and the RM sub-committee are working for a thriving Royal Mail service

“Naturally, it’s right we give Ofcom the chance to respond to our own analysis – this is why we’re urgently seeking meetings so we can lead that debate ahead of Ofcom’s consultation window closing.”

And in Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday pm Rishi Sunak doubled down on his commitment to the cause, which had earlier been related through a spokesperson, with his response to mp Richard Thomson – which can be seen in the video below – confirming: “I agree about the importance of the Royal Mail’s universal service obligation and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that it remains as it is.”

The Future Of The Universal Post Service review, which can be downloaded in full here, admits postal services and postal workers “remain a vital communications tool for many people and businesses” and are “essential to those who rely on them”, with 79% of respondents telling Ofcom some things will always need to be sent by post. and 74% of those who use the mail say they rely on the post for letters.

Ofcom is inviting views on its range of options for redesigning the universal postal service to secure its future, which includes cutting the USO from its current six-days-week to all addresses in the UK for the same stamp price to just five days – or even three – saying it reflects the way people use it.

Above: Views are invited in response to Ofcom’s USO review suggestions
Above: Views are invited in response to Ofcom’s USO review suggestions

However, Ofcom said reforming the USO “will not provide the answer to the financial and operational challenges Royal Mail faces”, adding that it expects the company to improve its reliability and resolve any operational issues that contributed to its failure to meet its delivery targets in 2022/23.

Anyone wishing to submit their views is asked to download the 10-question consultation response form here and return it to the email address supplied by 5pm on 3 April, 2024. The 38Degrees petition can also be signed here.

On a dedicated stand at Spring Fair in Hall 3, the GCA will have pre-printed letters for visitors and exhibitors to send to their mps to further ram home the importance of safeguarding a regular and efficient postal service. To read all about this click here.

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