This morning, David Lammy and I met with Royal Mail’s Chief Executive.
We arranged this meeting because, even though the situation has improved locally, we remain concerned that our area was hit so hard two years running. I wanted assurances from the very top that measures had been put in place to prevent this ever happening again.
Royal Mail reported that they are clearing every letter every day in our patch. They told us that more staff have been recruited locally and that some of the casual staff employed over Christmas has now been made permanent. They are currently recruiting for eight new staff members to strengthen the team and help manage problems caused by staff absence. They also told us there has been a huge increase in parcel delivery locally, although they expect parcel volumes to go back down this year, and they need to adapt their business model to better respond to this and to ensure that letter deliveries aren’t adversely affected.
I, once again, raised the issue of local delivery offices and sought assurances, which they provided, that there are no plans to move away from Muswell Hill. I pushed for more investment locally both in the facilities and in the workforce, and we shared our frustration that despite our repeated questioning, Royal Mail still seem unable to answer why the N19 delivery office had specific problems and why some roads within a postcode were more affected than others.
Royal Mail have reported soaring profits, they have a duty to deliver this essential service for residents and local businesses. David Lammy and I emphasised that we would continue to raise these issues in Parliament and with Ofcom as residents deserve better than the service they received last winter. If not, Ofcom must use their regulatory powers to act.
I hope this is helpful, and please do continue to let me know if I can be of any further assistance on this or any other issue.
Following on from our meeting with Royal Mail, I have sent this letter to Ofcom’s Chief Executive on Thursday 28 April. I will share below any response I receive.
Dame Melanie Dawes
Chief Executive, Ofcom
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA
28 April 2022
Our Ref: ZA12407
Dear Dame Melanie,
Thank you for your response to my letter of 17 January 2022. I am pleased that Ofcom is already aware of the problems residents and businesses have experienced, particularly over the winter period, and would welcome a further update on the actions Ofcom is taking to hold Royal Mail accountable.
In particular, I would welcome a commitment to investigating Royal Mail’s performance over the year 2021/22. As the regulator, I am keen to see action if you find the business has failed to meet its obligations. Postal workers have worked incredibly hard throughout the pandemic, and a lot of residents have told me how much they value their local postie and appreciate their efforts. However, Royal Mail – as a company – has missed the mark. I have written to you before about the frustrating experiences of my constituents in Hornsey & Wood Green and last week David Lammy MP and I met with the Chief Executive of Royal Mail. Research from Citizens Advice confirms that the experiences of residents and businesses in Haringey were echoed across the country. The charity estimates 16.5m were hit by letter delays in January 2021 and that almost 15m were left waiting for letters over the Christmas period.
Second, I would like to see Ofcom require Royal Mail to publish its performance data on a more detailed level. The Quality of Service reports you referred to in response to my letter are, sadly, too general to be useful to me or my constituents. The cumulative figure for the N postcode area is 82.3%. But this doesn’t at all reflect the experience of my constituents, most notably in the N8 and N4 postcode areas. More granular data would provide more transparency, and help rebuild public trust.
Finally, Ofcom must review the affordability of Royal Mail’s service. 1st class stamp prices have risen yet again, and this is despite the poor performance over the past two years. This leaves my constituents paying more for a poor service. I’m particularly concerned about this with the current cost of living squeeze.
I would be keen to hear your thoughts on these suggestions and understand more about the actions planned by Ofcom to help remedy these serious issues.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green
On 11 May I received this response, copied below, from Ofcom.
Dear Ms West
Thank you for your further letter dated 28 April 2022 about Royal Mail’s quality of service. Melanie has asked me to respond to you, as I lead on postal regulation at Ofcom.
Investigating Royal Mail’s performance in 2021-22
As you know, Royal Mail publishes Quality of Service reports which Ofcom assesses annually. Royal Mail will shortly publish its report for 2021-22 and we will then be able to assess whether to open an investigation into its performance. We are already preparing for this and we expect to reach a rapid decision about opening an investigation once the final report has been published. Given the importance of a good service to consumers, we will be keen to act as quickly as possible.
We monitor Royal Mail’s performance throughout the year and escalate any concerns with them about poor performance and the steps they are taking to return service to normal as soon as practicable. We collect a range of performance indicators including, for example, service updates that Royal Mail publishes daily which highlights delivery offices experiencing delivery issues and the post code areas affected, and other commercially confidential performance information we receive at an individual delivery office level. This is supported by specific examples when they are brought to our attention, such as Hornsey N8, which was also reported on Royal Mail’s website in January 2022. All of this data is used to inform our ongoing engagement with Royal Mail. Although we believe that we have sufficient information to assess Royal Mail’s quality of service against its targets on an ongoing basis, we will continue to encourage Royal Mail to be as transparent as possible with its customers about service issues at a local level. I appreciate that this is important to customers such as your constituents who are keen to understand the position in their particular postcode.
We are concerned about price rises, particularly at a time when consumer finances are stretched. Section 31 of the Postal Services Act 2011 sets out the need for the universal service provider, Royal Mail, to offer basic postal services at affordable prices – this is to ensure accessibility is maintained for all users, including those who are vulnerable. We set a safeguard price cap for second class stamps and price controls over a selection of other second class services. We see this as an important part of our regulation to ensure that basic postal services are affordable for postal users. We will start work later this year on our review of the safeguard caps that will apply from April 2024. Our review will be informed by consumer research on the affordability of stamp prices, and we will listen to the views of postal users, consumer groups and elected representatives across the UK.
Thank you for raising these issues with us and I hope this information is helpful.
Group Director for Networks and Communications