What changes are planned for Royal Mail and will Saturday post be scrapped?

24 January 2024, 09:31

Royal Mail reforms have emerged
Royal Mail reforms have emerged. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Proposals to scrap six days of Royal Mail letter deliveries have outraged customers.

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Plans to make changes to first and second class deliveries or move to a system that could see as few as three days of post a week were published on Wednesday.

Regulator Ofcom has called for a "national debate" about Royal Mail's future, saying letter volumes have halved in more than a decade.

But their reform ideas have led to fears about the impact of people who still rely on post or parcel deliveries.

Here is what those plans mean for you.

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

What are the proposed changes to Royal Mail?

Ofcom has outlined two primary options for reform.

One would see changes to first and second class deliveries. Under this plan, most letters will be delivered "through a service taking up to three days or longer".

Letters may only be delivered three times a week
Letters may only be delivered three times a week. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile, a "next-day service" would still be used for "any urgent letters".

The second option would see a reduction in the number of letter delivery days from six to five or three.

That would need government and parliamentary approval.

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

Why does Royal Mail need changes?

The organisation's requirements have gone unchanged since 2011 but letter volumes have halved in that time, while parcel deliveries have become more important.

Ofcom said that significant costs mean the Royal Mail is at an "increasing risk" of becoming "financially and operationally unsustainable in the long term".

It estimated that reducing letter deliveries to five days would save between £100m and £200m, while three day services would save £400m to £650m.

Royal Mail reform plans have been published
Royal Mail reform plans have been published. Picture: Alamy

Other European countries have reduced how frequent deliveries are made or extended wait times.

The regulator said: "Under any scenario, Royal Mail must modernise its network, become more efficient and improve its service levels.

"Ofcom's research shows that people want to get what they pay for. But people are not currently getting a reliable service because of Royal Mail's recent poor performance, for which Ofcom fined the company £5.6m last year.

"We will continue to hold Royal Mail to account and expect it to turn things around as a matter of urgency."

What has the government said?

Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said he would not even consider the idea of scrapping Saturday deliveries - the day identified so far as the most likely for the chop if the number of delivery days was reduced.

"The PM's strong view is that Saturday deliveries provide flexibility and convenience," they said.

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

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

This was echoed by postal minister Kevin Hollinrake on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

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."

What happens next?

Interested parties can submit their views by April 3, 2024, to tell Ofcom how people and businesses will be hit by the reforms.

It specifically mentioned the impact on vulnerable people, those living in remote regions and organisations that use bulk mail services.

Ofcom will hold events "in the coming months" to talk about evidence and options and then issue an update in the summer.

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