Postal shake-up would damage rural communities, says CLA

Organisation to contact Ofcom over threat to Universal Service, which guarantees single price postal service to all UK addressses

CLA North regional director Dorothy Fairburn
CLA North regional director Dorothy Fairburn

The end of Royal Mail’s obligation to deliver post six days a week to all UK addresses would cause serious harm to those who live and work in the countryside, the CLA in the North has said.

Royal Mail, which was part-privatised last year, has warned that increased competition is endangering its Government-mandated Universal Service, which guarantees a single price postal service to all UK addresses, including remote rural areas.

CLA North regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said: “The daily post is, and must remain, an intrinsic part of rural life. Without it, rural services, which are already under significant strain, will be seriously undermined.

“Any suggestion that Royal Mail is seeking to amend, or possibly abolish the Universal Service Obligation in the future, is a serious threat to everyone living and working in the countryside.”

The debate arose after Royal Mail saw its profits slump after Amazon caused waves in the market with the creation of its own parcel delivery network.

Moya Greene, Royal Mail chief executive, responded by asking ministers to overhaul rules that allow other companies to ‘cherry pick’ cheaper letter deliveries around big cities, leaving expensive rural post to the national service.

An urgent change in the rules was required to “secure the sustainable provision of the universal service for the future”, she added.

Royal Mail shares plummeted by 8%, after profits fell from £353m to £279m.

Competition from the likes of TNT, Yodel and Amazon itself is also forcing the firm to fight harder for business.

Royal Mail said Amazon’s plans would slash the rate of growth in the UK parcels market from 4-5% to 1-2% a year for its own business and other carriers for around two years.

Parcels make up half of Royal Mail’s turnover and its growth in an industry led by online shopping remains a major focus for shareholders in light of declining letter volumes.

Miss Fairburn said the CLA, which represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in the North, will be writing to Ofcom, calling for the regulatory body to seriously consider the extension of Universal Service Obligation to other operators in the postal market.

“We recognise that a company like Royal Mail must seek to generate profit,” she said. “However, this has to be addressed through achieving fair competition not removing a vital service from rural consumers.”

The CLA, which has a 34,000-strong membership, supports landowners by advising them on how best to protect and maximise their assets.

CLA members own approximately half the rural land in England and Wales.

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