- There are solutions that could restore the publication to a trusted system.
- But not if the government continues to hinder the chief’s efforts to fix the problem.
- Reform has already been carried out in most comparable countries, but not here
As the election approaches, there is a smell of national self-sabotage in the air and a sense that everyday life is falling apart.
The root of this is the lack of energy and leadership in the Government.
In the stock market, it was galling to see Arm Holdings soar to a premium last week when its shares were trading in New York.
Failing to persuade Arm, a company with British roots, to list in London was a spectacular own goal. But even so, the Government is advancing at a snail’s pace in the necessary reforms so that the city continues to be a world-class financial center.
At a much lower level, in Ruth, domestic life is a tsunami of irritation. Container collections are ignored. The roads are full of potholes. Family visits are disrupted by train strikes. Dealing with the NHS manager is almost more stressful than being sick. Don’t even think about trying to call HMRC about the new tax code. To top it all off, the Christmas cards arrived in January, maybe some are still on the way.
Written in stone: there are solutions that could restore our postal service to a functional and reliable system
The state of the position is an example of national malaise, the feeling that nothing works anymore, even if everything costs more.
The price of a first-class stamp has doubled, but Royal Mail is still missing its delivery targets. An army of small investors, if they had held shares since the IPO in 2013, would have seen their investment fall by 40 percent.
There are solutions that could restore our postal service to a functional and reliable system, but not if the Government continues to hinder the efforts of the new chief executive, German Anglophile Martin Seidenberg, to fix the problem. Reforms have already been carried out in most comparable countries, but not here, largely due to the faint-heartedness of our politicians.
Regulator Ofcom earlier this year put forward suggestions to put Royal Mail on a stronger footing.
Rishi Sunak immediately intervened to say he would not agree to scrap Saturday delivery, one of the proposals.
In fact, Saturday delivery could be preserved. One solution likely to find favor with Seidenberg is to continue delivering six days a week, but implement slower service for what is now second-class mail.
This could be combined with a premium fast-track service for letters that need to be delivered the next day, at a higher price than currently. That way, urgent letters would arrive quickly.
The feeling at Royal Mail, based on customer surveys, is that people would be happy if non-critical mail took a little longer, as long as it arrived at the expected time. Even militant unions could be appeased if there was a clear plan that protected as many of their members’ jobs as possible.
Nobody wants the mail in this country to go the same way as in Denmark, where the universal service obligation (the carrier has to deliver for the same price everywhere, no matter how remote) was abolished in January this year. But the longer the current stalemate continues, the more likely it will be that the mail service will collapse.
Big investors, including the so-called Czech Sphinx Daniel Kretinsky, are apparently not pressuring Royal Mail to divest itself of the GLS parcel business, but their tolerance has its limits. The end would be huge taxpayer subsidies to the card business, or renationalisation.
Royal Mail operates a business model designed for volumes of 20 billion letters a day. That number has dropped to 7 billion and will drop to 4 billion in a couple of years.
Fixed costs, including 36 daily UK flights carrying mail to remote parts of these islands, remain the same. The Government and the Labor Party must recognize that this is unsustainable.