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Royal Mail could deliver on just three days, says Ofcom

By David G Scott

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Many in the Highlands will be adversely affected if Royal Mail cuts back its routine delivery schedule from six a week to just three, if Ofcom proposals are acted upon.

The regulator has put forward proposals to overhaul the postal service because it says the current model is "unsustainable" without major change.

Under proposals unveiled on Wednesday, Royal Mail could be allowed to make just five or three letter deliveries a week – or slow the process down so that it would take three or more days for most letters to arrive – although next-day deliveries would still be available when required.

Ofcom says Royal Mail may cut or slow down its services. Picture: DGS
Ofcom says Royal Mail may cut or slow down its services. Picture: DGS

The changes could save anything between £100 million and £650 million, says the regulator.

An estimated 12.1 million people were hit by letter delays over Christmas and in the month up to January 5 – according to research by Yonder Data Solutions. With less options for courier services, many in the Highlands are more dependent on Royal Mail and the proposals may have more of an adverse affect in the far north.

It was also reported in September last year, that postal services in the Highlands are being pushed to breaking point, a union has warned. The Communications Workers' Union, which represents postal workers, has warned that low staffing levels, the "all but halted" recruitment of new posties, and "far inferior" employment terms for would-be recruits are creating a perfect storm.

In response to the regulator's proposals to cut back or slow down deliveries, charity Citizens Advice says any changes must prioritise customers and not the "bottom line".

Late post has very "real consequences" for people, says Citizens Advice.

Postal services in the Highlands are almost at breaking point, warned the union.
Postal services in the Highlands are almost at breaking point, warned the union.

From missed medical appointments to waiting for vital legal documents - the charity says an absence of post can impact people’s day-to-day lives and scaling back services won’t necessarily "make them more reliable".

Morgan Wild, interim director of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “Given Royal Mail has failed to meet its targets for nearly half a decade, it’s clear the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) is falling short of its fundamental purpose: safeguarding consumers. Any changes must prioritise their needs, not Royal Mail’s bottom line.

“We agree that improving reliability is essential. Late post has real consequences – people miss vital medical appointments, legal documents and benefit decisions.

“Cutting services won’t automatically make letter deliveries more reliable, so we must see proposals to tackle the cause of Royal Mail’s persistent failings. Ofcom and the government have to spell out how any revised USO will start to deliver for the millions of us who rely on it.”

With the number of letters being posted having halved since 2011, Ofcom has said it would like to see a "national debate" on the future of the service.

Ofcom’s consultation on the options it has now set out will run until the start of April, with a further update expected in the summer.

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