Ron examines the pros and cons of recent criticism of the Royal Mail
The vultures are circling above the Royal Mail. It seems almost as though there is an orchestrated campaign on the part of the media to discredit our postal service. Intentionally or not this is working as a softening up process so that the public at large will be more receptive to the idea that the postal service should be privatised. In recent years Royal Mail have been heavily criticised for losing money. I always considered it to be something of an Alice in Wonderland situation when you impose a regulator to control prices and then complain that the industry is operating at a loss, especially when the prices are already significantly lower than other European operators offering a comparable service.
As a result of this imposition of a price control the management were forced to cut costs and this they have done by reducing the service (abolishing the second delivery for example), keeping wages low and employing more casual staff. So now they are making a profit but they have a work force less committed to providing a good service and Royal Mail is now facing heavy criticism for a decline in the service it provides. I have no doubt that there are many postmen and post women throughout the country who continue to try their best but there is equally little doubt that there are those in the service, especially those in casual employment, who are badly trained and who feel that Royal Mail cares little for them, so it is not surprising if they care little for Royal Mail.
This whole situation has arisen simply because the regulator has blocked a suitable rise in the price of the letter post. A 2p increase would have made all the difference and would have left us with a service that was still cheaper and better than most, if not all, of our continental rivals, many of whom have a privatised service.
Royal Mail is soon to face more competition from private operators. These private operators know, however, that it will be hard to compete with Royal Mail. As a result there are forces in the City that are using their influence to try to persuade the Government to sell off Royal Mail, which, at the moment, is a company wholly owned by the state. The Chairman of the Royal Mail Board, Alan Deighton, has said that he would not oversee its privatisation but he is due to leave next year. I have no doubt that the Government will be very tempted by the possibility of a big windfall to give them some short term gain and there must be a high risk that they will agree to the sale. I am very much afraid however, that, if it does happen, we will see a disintegration of what is, I believe, one of the finest postal services in the world and we will also see a significant increase in prices.
Of course the Government should do what it can to inform people of the dangers of overeating and to ensure that the public are aware of what it is that they are eating, but I am truly amazed at the way in which the Government is currently being heavily criticised and even blamed for the increasing problem of obesity, something that is strictly the responsibility of the individual. On the one hand people complain that we have a 'nanny state' and then they complain that the Government is to blame for not doing enough to stop people over eating or to stop parents from allowing their children to over eat the wrong foods. Incredible!