Post it!

I managed to attract Mr Speaker’s eye during Questions last week, coming in on a question from another MP on lost and stolen post.Having done a survey in Hornsey & Wood Green and received well over a thousand responses, it is clear to me that the Royal Mail has major problems dealing with the issues that people raise.

Whilst some respondents praised their local postman with affection – there were many more who complained of not only lost and stolen post – but late post, no post and wrongly delivered post.

I raised the result of my survey with the Minister (Alistair Darling) who said he would see that the Royal Mail addressed any specific issues that my constituents had raised and that 99% of the mail is delivered just fine and dandy. Gee thanks Alistair – but I have already passed all the individual complaints to the Royal Mail having already got their agreement that they would deal with them. And 99% still means a huge mountain of mail going wrong on a daily basis.

It’s not just dealing with the individual complaints – it’s systemic problems of lost, stolen, misdelivered and late post that are driving people mad. Maybe I will send him the 1,000 plus responses I got – and when this tip of the iceberg is plonked on his desk maybe he will stop quoting mantras and start taking action…

Interestingly enough, the Royal Mail refuses to publish local figures on delivery. You can have the national figures – but no local break down. Commercial confidentiality is their defence against publishing them – but it feels like protection against real scrutiny. If I could get the breakdown on mail delivery in Hornsey & Wood Green – I could nag more effectively!

I am in the process of setting up a local pressure group (MailWatch) to get real action locally on the problems. The idea is to work with local sorting offices directly where problems are occurring to resolve any issues. This way there will be a real chance of improving the local service. Dealing with Customer Relations centrally just doesn’t get down to the nitty gritty. I met with the Royal Mail and they have agreed to co-operate in this way. So if you are interested in being involved – just contact me.

Post was clearly the flavour of the week as we Lib Dems had an Opposition Day – which means we got to put a motion for debate in the House of Commons. And as the Government has refused to give the Post Office any debating time – we picked the Post Office network for our debate. The network of sub-post offices has been decimated over recent years – denuding both rural and urban areas of a central function and social fulcrum. Thousands of sub-post offices have given up the ghost as Government has removed function after function from their stock of services making them financially unviable. There are plenty of examples here in our own community.

What the Government seems completely deaf to are the consequences for little local shopping parades all over the country and for the vulnerable who can just about get to a post office. Stony ground during the debate. The Government is not interested in good arguments, logic or reason – only in steam-rollering through ‘modernisation’. Sadly the Government can always out vote us and they did.

That’s why the lobby this week of Parliament by sub-postmasters was so important – and they handed in at Downing Street the biggest petition ever presented – over four million signatures.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t about preserving some quaint but failing service that is economically unsustainable – this is about the challenge of true transformation to the sort of services that could and should be provided locally through such sub-post offices serving local people, cutting travel and bringing footfall to those small business that are so vital to our local shopping parades and rural villages.