Visiting the N19 Royal Mail sorting office to discuss the serious postal problems locally
Visiting the N19 Royal Mail sorting office to discuss the serious postal problems locally

Thursday 27 January 2021

I have now received this response from the Chief Executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes:

Dear Ms West,

Thank you for your letter of 17 January 2022 setting out the significant problems that your constituents in Hornsey & Wood Green have been experiencing with their service from Royal Mail, particularly over the past few months.

I can assure you that we actively monitor Royal Mail’s performance throughout the year and we are aware of the current shortfalls in performance. As you rightly say, we ended the regulatory emergency period on 31 August 2021 and normal service targets now apply. Under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Royal Mail are required to deliver 93% of First Class mail within one working day of collection, and for 98.5% of second class items to be delivered within three working days.

In order to demonstrate whether they are meeting the USO, Royal Mail publish Quality of Service reports which Ofcom assesses annually. Our next assessment will take place as soon as the 2021/22 financial year has come to an end – in other words in April – but we are already preparing for this so that we can expedite it as quickly as possible. At the end of each year we can and will take action if we consider Royal Mail has failed to meet its annual targets without good justification. For example, last year we fined Royal Mail £1.5m for missing its 2018/19 targets.

While this is an annual assessment, I should also emphasise that we are in active conversation with Royal Mail right now to understand the steps they are taking to address the current problems. These are particularly acute at certain delivery offices and as you say, unfortunately Hornsey is one of those. We understand that Royal Mail is taking targeted steps to address the issues, including rotating deliveries to minimise the delay to individual customers.

Thank you for bringing these problems in Hornsey and Wood Green to our attention.

Yours sincerely,

Melanie Dawes


Monday 24 January 2021

David Lammy and I have written a joint letter to the CEO of Royal Mail requesting a meeting to discuss the postal problems affecting residents across Haringey.  We want to see the current backlog resolved and concrete actions taken to prevent a repeat.  Read our letter here:

Our letter to CEO of Royal Mail
Our letter to CEO of Royal Mail

Wednesday 19 January 2021

I have today received a response from the Government Minister Paul Scully MP to my letter of 5 January.  You can read it here.  I am pleased that Ofcom’s report on the October-December period will be published next month and, as residents know, I have already written to Ofcom directly to set out my ongoing concerns.

Following my visit to the N19 sorting office, I’ve now also received a written response from Royal Mail regarding the specific problems in N8.  You can read it here.

That letter relates specifically to N8 and below is a copy of the response I received to my complaints about problems in the N10 area.

Royal Mail response on problems in N10
Royal Mail response on problems in N10

Monday 17 January 2021

Royal Mail have reported pre-tax profits of £315 million in the six months to the end of September, up from £17 million a year earlier, but they’re still not delivering for residents and local businesses.  Today I’ve written to Ofcom to urge them to use their regulatory powers to act.

Read my letter here:

Catherine West MP
Catherine West MP's letter to Ofcom

Tuesday 11 January 2022

This morning I’ve been at the N19 Royal Mail sorting office to see for myself the situation on the ground.  This office sorts and delivers mail for N8 and N4.

I met a new Senior Manager who Royal Mail have brought in to help deal with the large backlog locally.  They told me they’re still dealing with extremely high sickness absence rates, but they’ve brought in more temporary staff to help with sorting post and extended the temporary staff recruited for the Christmas period.  They also told me they’re investing in new machinery to make it easier and quicker to sort parcels.

I, once again, emphasised the terrible impact these delays have caused residents.  From elderly, isolating residents left feeling completely cut off over Christmas to people missing vital hospital appointments because the letters never arrived.  I discussed the need to prioritise NHS letters, and was told this was happening where they were identifiable.

I repeated my demands for management action to be taken to ensure all areas receive some postal service, rather than the current postcode lottery where some streets receive regular deliveries and other neighbouring streets receive nothing for many weeks.  I also sought and received assurances that no mail would be disposed of.

Finally, whilst this office doesn’t sort mail for N10 I did highlight the problems there particularly over the last fortnight.  They assured me that these should now be resolved and I hope that is the experience of residents.

I’m pleased to have visited and to have started to receive emails from residents suggesting the backlog of long-awaited post is beginning to arrive.  However, I can’t say I left today with confidence that all the problems residents and small businesses have had are resolved, or that sufficient action has yet been taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

I haven’t yet received a response to my letter to the Minister, and at the earliest opportunity in Parliament I’ll be once again raising the need for effective regulation of this essential service, since it was privatised under the Coalition Government.  Royal Mail know there is a problem, made worse by their short-sighted decision to close Hornsey Sorting Office.  With their huge profits we should be able to expect more posties to cover for sickness absence.

Royal Mail have promised to write to me formally after today’s visit and I’ll post their reply here when available.  Please continue to let me know your experiences – and please continue to raise official complaints with Royal Mail.

Campaigning for the reopening of Hornsey Sorting Office alongside local Labour Councillors
Campaigning for the reopening of Hornsey Sorting Office alongside local Labour Councillors

Update: 5 January 2022

Too many local residents still aren’t receiving any post and the responses I’m getting from Royal Mail aren’t good enough.  I’ve been raising repeatedly over the Christmas period and I’ve asked to visit the N19 sorting office.  On Parliament’s return today, I’ve written this letter to the Postal Services Minister.

My letter to the Postal Services Minister
My letter to the Postal Services Minister

Update on postal services: Thursday 23 December 2021

I know that many residents and businesses are still having serious postal problems.

Front line postal workers are doing an incredibly tough job and it is inevitable that sickness absence rates will rise as Omicron spreads. However, it’s not good enough that yet again N8 and N4 have been affected more than almost anywhere else in the country. I believe the short-sighted decision to close Hornsey Sorting Office has made the problems worse and I continue to campaign hard for Royal Mail to bring back a local office.

I have raised these issues in Parliament, met with Royal Mail repeatedly and am in almost daily contact with Royal Mail bosses to put pressure on them to act. I want to see better distribution of staffing so that all areas receive a postal service, increased temporary staffing over the busy Christmas period, prioritisation of COVID test results and NHS letters, and accurate information for residents and businesses who are affected. In Parliament, I want Ministers to ensure the regulatory framework is tough enough for what is a vital service.

Since the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition Government privatised Royal Mail, I’m concerned profits are being prioritised over services. Royal Mail have managed to deliver a £400 million early Christmas present to their shareholders. Instead, they need to be delivering improved services for residents and businesses.

Please be assured I will keep the pressure up.

Update on postal services: Friday 3 December 2021

Following reports of further postal problems in N8, N4 and N10 I met with senior Royal mail staff including the Service Delivery Lead for North-East London on Friday 3 December.

At the meeting I raised my concerns that residents were reporting severe delays, with some streets including Park Avenue South and Ridge Road, covered by Hornsey Sorting Office telling me they’re going a week or more with no mail.  Royal Mail have told me they’re urgently looking into the issues I’ve highlighted on Park Avenue South.

In addition, I highlighted problems at the Muswell Hill Sorting Office, repeated my concerns that our area has been particularly hard hit because of the closure of the local Hornsey Sorting Office and asked what measures were being taken to pro-actively prepare for the Christmas rush and prioritise vaccination letters and COVID test results.  I also asked about the support in place for hard-working postal staff, including flexible working, pay and conditions.

During the meeting Royal Mail told me:

  • They were aware there has been a substantial growth in demand in the N10 area and they are currently recruiting for 6 new roles.  Details here for now to apply.
  • Vaccination letters and COVID test results are now being prioritised with plans in place to ensure delivery of mail at least every other day across the constituency.
  • Additional temporary staff are being recruited to cover long-term sick leave at the North London Delivery Centre and changes to leave arrangements mean more staff will be working and sorting letters over the Christmas period.

The postal service is a key part of our national infrastructure, never more so that during the pandemic when deliveries have been crucial in enabling people to isolate and small business to survive.  Royal Mail need to invest their profits back into the business so residents and businesses can feel confident deliveries will be reliable and on-time.

We’re seeing a long-term increase in the volume of mail because of new housing developments, COVID and a growing shift towards online shopping.   Royal Mail need to proactively respond to this and I’ll continue to put pressure on Royal Mail directly and on Ministers to ensure the regulatory framework is tough enough.

Please continue to let me know any problems you’re experiencing.  Please also raise formal complaints with Royal Mail directly, as it’s really important they know the strength of feeling and frustration from local residents.

Update on postal services – 19 November

Many residents will remember the serious problems with the postal service locally last winter.  It was particularly bad in the N8 and N4 areas and it was something I repeatedly raised at the time, both with Royal Mail and in Parliament where I renewed calls to bring back Hornsey Sorting Office.

I’m grateful to our Postal Workers, who’ve been on the frontline throughout the pandemic delivering more mail with fewer people.  But I am concerned that our area saw services hit harder than almost anywhere else in the country last year, and with Royal Mail reporting record profits it’s vital that bosses step up and put a plan in place to stop this happening again.

That’s why earlier this month I wrote to Royal Mail bosses to ask what pro-active plans they were putting in place, including temporary staffing to cover sick leave and increased mail volumes, to avoid problems as Christmas approaches.

These are the responses that I have received to dateHowever, I’ve now requested a meeting with Royal Mail bosses to obtain some more concrete information about their plans for the Christmas season and to discuss further recent reports of problems in the N10 area at the Muswell Hill Sorting Office.

I’ll continue to post updates on my website and do get in touch if this issue is affecting you.  You can also contact Royal Mail directly here.

Services in N8
Services in N8
Services in N4
Services in N4
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