'We all rely on the Royal Mail': Minister acknowledges widespread 'concern' over plans to axe Saturday post

22 January 2024, 08:44 | Updated: 22 January 2024, 10:01

Nick Ferrari wants answers on the threat to Saturday post delivery

By Will Taylor

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer has admitted "we all rely on the Royal Mail" as Saturday post faces the chop.

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Ofcom is set to outline how the service could be reformed, which could include ending end-of-week deliveries.

Formal proposals are due to be set out later this year, after a consultation.

Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, refused to condemn or support the plans with LBC's Nick Ferrari on Monday.

But she admitted customers will be nervous about weekend deliveries being culled.

"Many of my constituents will have concerns on that. I think Ofcom need to look at the results of that consultation very carefully," she said.

"This obviously isn't in my brief."

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

Royal Mail post on Saturday could soon be axed
Royal Mail post on Saturday could soon be axed. Picture: Alamy

Pushed further on her views, she said: "I think many people will have concerns about that but I'm sure Ofcom will be looking at that very carefully.

"We all rely on the Royal Mail and that communication is really important.

"Everyone gets post and that post is incredibly important and everyone is always very concerned when services are taken away.

Read more: Saturday post could be scrapped as Ofcom paves way for Royal Mail to abolish six-days-a-week service

"I'm sure many people across the country will be having concerns about this."

A series of ideas will be set out by Ofcom and a 90-day consultation is set to be launched.

That will inform a concrete proposal later this year.

Small businesses rely on Royal Mail, FSB says

The potential axing of Saturday post is not the only option - an idea to replicate some European countries like Germany and Italy and delivering every other day could also feature.

Higher stamp prices, a government subsidy and changes to first class and second class delivery targets could follow, industry sources have said.

Kevin Hollinrake, the business minister who is responsible for post, said in June that there were no plans to change six day deliveries under the "Universal Service Obligation".

But as recently as last week, Martin Seidenberg, the boss of Royal Mail's owner International Distributions Services, warned MPs in a letter: "Delivering the current Universal Service requirements - in a financially sustainable way - is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve as the mix and number of parcels and letters changes.

"The bar set by the regulations is unrealistic given the market realities."

There are also concerns about the quality of its service, with Ofcom saying late last year that the business - which was privatised in 2013 - was significantly failing to meet targets.

It is expected to deliver 93% of first class post within one working day of it being collected, while 98.5% of second class post is meant to within three working days.

Craig Beaumont, from the Federation of Small Businesses, told LBC: "It's not very thought through. It follows on from 19 days of Royal Mail strikes and that cyber hack that stopped them exporting.

"So it just feels like it's a deterioration.

"Don't forget about small businesses being customers to people and don't just think about this as households and 'oh well, everyone's moved to email'.

"That's not the case for small products and small businesses. The BPs and the large companies will use these big private providers, who are much more expensive, they work on mass runs - so this is a small business issue rather than a big business one."