'People want birthday cards on time but Royal Mail isn't delivering': Ofcom boss defends proposal for three days of post

24 January 2024, 10:23 | Updated: 24 January 2024, 11:52

Nick Ferrari challenges Ofcom CEO over the consultation on the future of Saturday post

By Will Taylor

Customers are prepared to accept less frequent letter deliveries if it makes Royal Mail's service more reliable, Ofcom's chief executive has told LBC.

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Dame Melanie Dawes said the business was not up to scratch and needed to improve.

Customers are fearful after Ofcom published proposals to overhaul Royal Mail on Wednesday, which could see as few as three days of letter deliveries a week and lead to Saturday deliveries being axed.

LBC's Nick Ferrari told her that people want to get their birthday and mother's day cards delivered on time and that was driving worries about changes.

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

"They do want birthday cards - they absolutely do. What's happening at the moment is Royal Mail isn't delivering," Dame Melanie said.

"What the public say is, when they buy a stamp, they want to know that the letter they're sending is going to arrive on time.

"A lot of people are saying they'd rather have a less frequent and slightly slower service but one that actually happens as they'd expect."

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

She added: "The service is not sustainable. And that's what we're saying - we've got to make some choices here, and that's why we want to know what really matters to people."

The regulator outlined two "primary options" for letter deliveries on Wednesday.

One option 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".

A "next-day service" would still be used for "any urgent letters".

The other proposal would see letters get delivered to households and businesses as few as five or even three days a week.

That would require new legislation to pass through Parliament.

Royal Mail reform proposals could see letter delivery days reduced to three a week
Royal Mail reform proposals could see letter delivery days reduced to three a week. Picture: Alamy

It has led to fears that a move to reduced deliveries would result in Saturday services being axed.

Earlier, postal minister Kevin Hollinrake reiterated to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that the government is not prepared to consider 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.

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

"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".

Alex Veitch, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce told LBC: “It is clear that Royal Mail’s current operational model is not sustainable and must be reformed.

“But the impact on the wider economy, and especially smaller and more rural businesses, has to be fully considered.

“Changes that harm the overall efficiency and effectiveness of UK business will be in no-one’s interest.

“The BCC will be speaking to Chambers across the UK to get feedback from firms on these proposals, to make sure their voice is properly heard in the consultation process.”

On Monday, prime minister Rishi Sunak's spokesperson 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."

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