A new proposal to reduce the letter delivery service to three days a week has caused a stir among businesses and individuals who heavily rely on the Royal Mail.
Communications regulator Ofcom has set out reforms for the postal service to allow it to make savings, including cutting its letter deliveries from its current six days. However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that reducing deliveries could “cause real disruption to our economy".
The government said it remained committed to a six-day-a-week service, and when asked about the proposals made by Ofcom, the prime minister’s official spokesman said they would “engage with” the watchdog’s suggestions, including by taking part in a consultation on future service levels.
Martin Seidenberg, the chief executive of Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services (IDS), added: “There has been a lot of discussion about dropping Saturday letter deliveries in the UK, but as other countries have shown, there are a range of options to consider.”
But what do you think? Should Royal Mail reduce its service to five – or even three – days a week as a way of saving on costs?
Royal Mail: Perspectives
“Postal workers are part of the fabric of our society and are critical to communities up and down the country. But we’re sending half as many letters as we did in 2011, and receiving many more parcels. The universal service hasn’t changed since then, it’s getting out of date and will become unsustainable if we don’t take action" – Dame Melanie Dawes, chief executive of Ofcom, read more
"I believe the Royal Mail can build a sustainable model. But that sustainable model must be based on a six-day service” – Kevin Hollinrake, the post affairs minister, read more
"Going from six knocks on the door a week to three would leave millions of vulnerable people without a vital community service. The nature of how we communicate will continue to change and businesses will have to adapt. But far from saving Royal Mail, these proposals would sound the Last Post" – The Evening Standard, read more
“It’s understandable that the overall number of mail volumes has fallen in recent years, but the number of small businesses relying on it has not. The answer, therefore, lies in modernising a service designed in the 1970s to fit the needs and expectations of today’s culture in a sensible way, that doesn’t leave small firms feeling short-changed” – FSB policy chairwoman Tina McKenzie
Key findings from Ofcom’s review
Most Britons still need postal services: The regulator surveyed thousands of postal service users as part of the review, asking them about their requirements. Almost four-fifths – 79% – of more than 2,000 people questioned said there are “some things they will always need to send by post”.
About 65% stressed that it remains an important way of communicating with friends and family despite the increasing availability and popularity of other options, such as social media or other messaging. However, this reflected a decline, after previous polling in 2015-16 found that 73% of people saw it as an important communication channel.
The research also found that the affordability and certainty of arrival were prioritised over the speed of delivery, as long as next-day options are available for occasional use.
Financial impact: Ofcom found in its review that reform is “necessary” to ensure the sustainability of the postal service. This is partly linked to the recent weak financial performance of Royal Mail, which posted a £319m loss for the latest half-year.
Lower demand for letters: The watchdog reported that demand for posting letters has noticeably declined in recent years. It dropped from 14 billion in 2011 to roughly seven billion in the 2022/23 financial year, with the rate of decline accelerating more recently.