Well, sooner or later circumstances would inevitably force me into another diatribe against either Walsall Council or Royal Mail Group Plc, aka the institution formerly known as the Post Office. Walsall Council have for the most part not featured on my radar screen save for the re-surfacing debacle on our estate which was featured in my satirical blog The Clayhanger Review last July. However, the same cannot be said about the state of the postal service which we have to endure these days.
December is by tradition a busy month for Royal Mail Group and its constituent businesses, although why it seems to come as a surprise to most of its management is somewhat bewildering, given that Christmas unlike Easter, is not a movable feast, and always falls on the same date i.e. December 25th. In 2010, the heavy snow in December played havoc with the delivery schedules but for the most part mail got delivered within 1-2 days of posting, that is until local management at Walsall Delivery Office, deemed it “necessary” to impose health & safety restrictions – even though the delivery staff were willing to go out and complete their rounds – thereby undermining Royal Mail’s proud tradition of their postmen and women always getting through.
On February 01st last year, I wrote that because of this unilateral decision by local management, a cheque I was expecting on Dec 22nd did not actually arrive until Dec 23rd, just about in time to get into the bank and start clearing by the end of December and avoid incurring bank charges.
This year, despite year on year decline in its mail volumes and with better weather than twelve months previously, a cheque posted First Class in Portsmouth on December 20th was finally delivered to my address here in Walsall on December 24th, a whole four days as the picture below will testify;
Being in a somewhat sarcastic mood several days later when the cheque the letter contained failed to clear before Dec 3oth due to double bank holidays etc, I decided to post this example of Royal Mail’s poor service on my twitter feed as follows-;
Michael Cronogue@michaelcronogue3 Jan
@royalmail thanks to your inefficiency my cheque was 3 days late and I’m now incurring charges #couldntorganiseone roll on privatisation!!!
From Royal Mail came the response;
Royal Mail @RoyalMail3 Jan
@michaelcronogue I’m sorry to hear this Michael, was it sent using a guaranteed service?
I tweeted a further reply including the image above to prove posting date;
Michael Cronogue@michaelcronogue3 Jan
@RoyalMail you took 4 days to get 1C ltr from Portsmouth to W.Mids even with xmas shd take only two!
Response from Royal Mail-;
@michaelcronogue Our last recommended posting date for 1st class items to arrive in time for Xmas was 20/12, however it’s not guaranteed
Hmmm, yes strictly speaking letter was posted on last recommended posting day before Christmas; and yes I know from my days working for them it’s never guaranteed; but FOUR days with lower volumes and no inclement weather like the previous year is really stretching even my imagination, and I’m a creative writer!!!
Royal Mail had a once-proud tradition of being the most efficient as well as profitable mail service in the world. Sadly over recent years, it has failed to meet the challenges associated with the opening up to competition from other carriers as well as the rise of electronic mail, the internet and social media – witness the quality of their twitter responses above.
Even the impending privatisation of the service has failed to galvanise those responsible for running the Christmas mailing schedules, to ensure that business customers as far as is practicable, get as normal a service as possible particularly when making payments to small businesses such as mine, which rely on an efficient mail collection and delivery service.
Four days to get a first class item from Portsmouth to Walsall – a distance of only 170 miles – really is the thin end of the wedge. I had previously opposed postal privatisation as I felt that with the right commercial conditions in place, the size and scope of the postal infrastructure, its history and it’s dedicated delivery staff, would be capable of meeting the challenges of a modern world.
Unfortunately, a combination of several related factors in particular a senior management seemingly incapable of bringing in the necessary improvements, (even with the sainted Moya Greene as Chief Executive) means that regrettably there is little alternative.
The history of what happens to public industries such as the railways and utilities post-privatisation is not a happy one. Fragmentation of services allied with ever-increasing costs, means that the postal service is bound to go the same way.
The sight of senior RMG managers over the years too willingly bending over backwards to their political masters rather than effectively fight the mail service’s corner, means that the commercial opportunities willingly grasped by the German, Dutch and French Postal Services have largely been passed by.
The strange sound you can hear is probably Roland Hill turning in his grave.