Believe everything you read and apparently Royal Mail is prioritising so-called junk mail over other deliveries during the cold snap. To be fair, it appears to stem from one disgruntled postie at a sorting office in Warwickshire. But, despite the questionable legitimacy of these reports, why shouldn’t it get preferential treatment?
After all, it is an undeniable truth that so many politicians and critics of this industry fail to grasp – direct mail, whether simple leaflets and door-drops or highly targeted mailshots, underpins the entire Royal Mail operation.
And in these times where direct digital channels are proliferating and mail volumes falling through the floor, there is a strong argument to suggest that there has never been a more urgent need for the bosses at Her Majesty’s mail company to be doing everything in their powers to keep existing business clients cock-a-hoop.
So much is made of the need to maintain the Universal Service that often the very people who are paying for it get lost in the bunfight to protect it. That’s why it was so refreshing to hear the head of the Postal Trade Association Forum Alan Halfacre recently tell MPs sitting on the Postal Services Bill committee that it is time to grasp the nettle and rethink the scale of the Universal Service.
He called for the Government to bow to the inevitable decline in mail volumes by cutting back the Universal Service or risk a mass exodus of business mailers fed up with footing the bill. Quoting research from Consumer Focus, he maintained that the public at large would be prepared to accept fewer weekday deliveries to have a sustainable postal service.
It may well be a step too far for a Coalition that is already facing student riots, disgruntled pensioners and a public sector worker revolt. But the warning signs are there for everyone to see. Royal Mail knows it – it is even rolling out its “20 per cent off” mailing tariff sale once more to encourage business mail (while bizarrely also calling for price increases).
The question is: who has the courage to sign the death warrant for the Universal Service?
Charlie McKelvey, publishing editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)