Royal Mail could make huge changes to drastically reduce number of days letters are delivered

24 January 2024, 07:26 | Updated: 24 January 2024, 08:56

Ofcom has proposed cutting letter delivery services down to five or three days a week.
Ofcom has proposed cutting letter delivery services down to five or three days a week. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Ofcom has proposed reducing the Royal Mail’s letter delivery service from six days to five or three a week.

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The regulator said that the two "primary options" for letter deliveries include changes to the number of days that letters are delivered a week.

The proposal could mean that letters are only delivered to households and businesses five, or even three times per week.

Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said that the service is "getting out of date and will become unsustainable if we don't take action", as the number of letters being sent each year has halved since 2011.

Reducing the service could save between £100-200 million if it drops down to five days a week and between £400-650 million if it drops down to three days a week.

Postal Services minister Kevin Hollinrake told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, however, that the government is not prepared to discuss reducing the six-day service.

He said: “I don’t think the prime minister will countenance it, I don’t think parliament will either and it would require parliament to vote to do that, to reduce it to a five-day service. That’s not what we want to see.

“The six-day service is really important for our citizens and also for our businesses.

“This is part of a national conversation, there are no firm plans, Ofcom have set out some options for reform. Happy to have that conversation, but we’re not having a conversation about reducing from six to five days.”

Mr Hollinrake acknowledged the potential need for reform within the postal service but said “that reform should not include a reduction in the number of days that post is delivered”.

Read more: Small businesses shouldn't have to bear the brunt if Royal Mail axes Saturday post

Read more: Rishi Sunak 'would not countenance' ending Saturday post as controversial plans to reform Royal Mail emerge

Postal minister confirms there are 'no firm plans' to reduce the number of days post is delivered

“We’re here to represent people and businesses who rely on Royal Mail services, so that will always be our focus," he added.

Ofcom has suggested two "primary options" for reform within the postal service.

The first, it said, is "making changes to existing First and Second Class and business products so that most letters are delivered through a service taking up to three days or longer, with a next-day service still available for any urgent letters".

The second is "reducing the number of letter delivery days in the service from six to five or three. This would require Government and Parliament to change primary legislation".

It comes after details of a proposal to axe Saturday letter deliveries emerged last week.

On Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he “would not countenance” ending the Saturday service - although Ofcom's proposal today suggests cutting even more days than originally reported.

A spokesperson for No10 said the idea would never be allowed to happen, as they said: "The PM's strong view is that Saturday deliveries provide flexibility and convenience.

"They are important for businesses and particularly publishers. The Prime Minister would not countenance seeing Saturday deliveries scrapped."

The proposal suggests reducing letter deliveries to five or six days a week.
The proposal suggests reducing letter deliveries to five or six days a week. Picture: Alamy

Reacting to the announcement, Citizens advice criticised the new proposal as it called for changes that would tackle the "cause of Royal Mail's persistent failings" instead.

Morgan Wild, Interim Director of Policy at Citizens Advice, said: “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.”

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said a three-day delivery service would "destroy" Royal Mail.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: "We are not resistant to change, but we will not sign up to a three-day universal service obligation, which would destroy Royal Mail as we know and would impact on thousands of jobs.

"Royal Mail has the biggest fleet in the country, a presence in every community, and boasts and unrivalled infrastructure. "This is the bedrock that a serious growth agenda, and the future of the company, can be built."

The union claimed Ofcom had produced the report without asking for input from frontline workers or their union.

Mr Ward added: "The CWU will not stand for that. We will now launch an extensive engagement exercise and produce our own report on the future of Royal Mail, taking on board the views of our members and customers."