THE PRIVATISATION of Royal Mail will mean higher prices and a poorer service for rural communities, Assembly Member Joyce Watson has warned.
The Labour AM for Mid and West Wales has written to business minister Vince Cable MP urging him to ditch the £3bn sell-off.
Mrs Watson says a privately owned service would not maintain the unprofitable parts of the business leading to higher prices and worse services in rural Wales.
“This sale is all about securing a short-term win for the Treasury not the Royal Mail’s future. It is bad enough that the Tories are selling the family silver, but they are flogging it cheap. Royal Mail’s assets are worth billions and the quality of the service it provides to isolated communities is priceless. I have been inundated with messages from constituents who are furious that another British institution is being sold off. The UK Government must listen to the public outcry and drop these plans now.”
The Pembokeshire Herald can being you the letter in full:
The Rt. Hon. Vince Cable MP
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Dear Dr Cable,
I have received concerns from many of my constituents regarding the proposed privatisation of the Royal Mail by the UK Government. Any such privatisation could have a significant impact on the towns and rural communities of Mid and West Wales that I represent.
Until 2012 stamp prices were subject to regulatory control which meant that individuals and businesses were protected from excessive price rises. However, the price of a first class stamp rose from 46p to 60p. As a private company, focused on increasing shareholder returns, it is likely that the Royal Mail will want more significant price increases.
Many businesses are dependent on the Royal Mail. The delivery of letters and parcels to any address in the UK is a service we cannot do without. For many small businesses, especially those in rural areas there is often no alternative to the Royal Mail. While these businesses are already suffering from high overhead costs, they can ill afford to see the cost of using the postal service rocket.
The Royal Mail delivers where competitors refuse to go. In my region of Mid and West Wales I see little evidence of private companies seeking to compete. My constituents understand that it costs more than the price of a stamp to deliver a letter to a rural address. That is why, despite assurances to the contrary, the postal services regulator is working to determine the real cost for deliveries to rural areas. It has also looked recently at how it can reduce the daily delivery service to addresses in the countryside. A privately owned Royal Mail will not want to maintain this non-profit making service. It is difficult to see how the government might be able to compel a private enterprise to continue to provide this service.
The local post office is a focal point for the life of so many small towns and villages across Mid and West Wales. Where pubs and other shops have disappeared, the post office has remained. But when that goes, I fear that the life of these communities will also disappear. This would have a significant impact on the elderly, disabled and those who cannot travel – already the most vulnerable members of these communities.
Many small post offices have a fragile existence and rely upon Royal Mail for business to survive. Yet the 2001 Postal Services Act fully separates the Post Office Counters’ network from Royal Mail. The government will point to a recently signed business agreement between the two. But that cannot guarantee that a new, private owner, free to do as they choose, will honour that agreement in the long-term. For example, they may wish to re-negotiate its terms or move more of its business to other retail outlets.
Many of my constituents will also miss the traditional red liveried vehicles, the use of Her Majesty’s head on stamps and the distinct pillar boxes are all part of the rich history of Royal Mail and a feature of our towns and countryside. While we must always look to the future, it would be a great shame if this heritage would disappear following privatisation.
I would be grateful if you would consider the concerns of my constituents and review your decision to privatise the Royal Mail.