A Downing Street statement has confirmed that the prime minister “would not countenance” the scrapping of Royal Mail Saturday deliveries. This news comes ahead of Ofcom publishing its review of the postal service.
A spokesperson for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “The PM’s strong view is that Saturday deliveries provide flexibility and convenience. They are important for businesses and particularly publishers. The prime minister would not countenance seeing Saturday deliveries scrapped.”
Reports claim that the communications regulator is set to publish a consultation paper by the end of January 2024 outlining potential reforms to the DUSP’s universal service obligation (USO). One such reform that is reported to have been considered is the transformation of the current six-day USO to a five-day structure, scrapping Saturday deliveries.
Ofcom has stated that it will only be setting out evidence and options, with the government ultimately having the final say on any changes to the USO.
One reason for the proposed changes to the USO is the decline in letters sent. A Royal Mail spokesperson has said that it is “simply not sustainable to maintain a delivery network built for 20 billion letters when we are now only delivering seven billion”.
They added: “We have been consistent in saying the need for reform is urgent to ensure a modern and sustainable universal service.”
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said in an interview that he believes Ofcom had a “predetermined plan”, which he speculates is supported by the government and some on the Royal Mail board, to reduce the number of days on which Royal Mail delivers.
Ward voiced his frustrations with Ofcom about the lack of consultation with postal workers and with the CWU. His message is clear: “We’re not going to stand idly by and allow this to happen.”
Ward added that the CWU would be willing to engage in a consultation about change, provided that it was based on sustaining the universal service in the future and it was driven by an ambitious growth strategy. He outlined some of the CWU’s priorities when considering changes, including expanding UK postal services, bringing innovation to the service and protecting jobs.
In May 2023, it was announced that Royal Mail had failed to meet its required targets for delivery performance, prompting an investigation by regulatory body Ofcom. As the designated universal service provider (DUSP), Royal Mail is required by Ofcom rules to meet certain targets for timely and successful deliveries.
Royal Mail was behind the target for on-time First Class mail by 7.9% and Second Class mail by 2.4% in Q1 2023 but in Q3 2023 these targets were missed by 38.8% and 19.9% respectively.
The postal service company was also engaged in a lengthy dispute with the CWU over pay and working conditions, before an agreement was reached in May 2023.