Lynne Featherstone writes… Royal Mail plans fail to deliver!

International Development minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest one…..

When I get in and find a little card saying ‘we tried to deliver but you were out’ – I am always annoyed – because it means extra bother. Currently that bother is either re-organising delivery on another day, organising for it to go to a neighbour or popping into Archway Road post office to collect it at my convenience. With my schedule – only the last of those is a real possibility. But that small bother is about to get a whole lot worse!

So imagine how cross I was (on both my own behalf and of course everyone who will be affected) when in September I caught wind of Royal Mail plans to relocate sorting offices (where registered post and parcels usually go) in North London. Our local sorting office services in Hornsey, Harringay and Highgate are under threat.

This is a big deal. The average volume of parcels and mail returned to each office when a customer is not at home stands at 278 items per day. Thousands of local residents will be affected.

Three sorting offices in North London are being relocated. Hornsey sorting office is being closed and the staff and services are moving to N19. Another office on Green Lanes in N4 is also closing – with services being moved to an industrial estate near Tufnell Park. Highgate sorting office, which is currently based in the Upper Holloway office, will also move to the new site near Tufnell Park.

In Highgate, we residents are used to picking up undelivered parcels from the post office on Archway Road. As part of the reorganisation, the free collection point at Archway Road may be withdrawn. Instead, Highgate residents would have to travel to Tufnell Park – or alternatively pay a £1.50 charge per item to pick up their undelivered parcels and post from Archway Road. In short, as the journey to Tufnell Park is not feasible for many Highgate residents, Royal Mail will rather cynically start charging for a service which is currently free.

For Hornsey residents, instead of picking up undelivered parcels and post from the conveniently located sorting office by the station, they will have to take two or three buses – or drive – to N19 to collect them. Residents that use the Green Lanes office will face a similar problem.

The problem is that, in this day and age, very few of us have a spare hour or two in the day to travel to pick up our parcels. It is also incredibly impractical – how will parents with small children or the elderly be able to make the journey and carry heavy parcels back home?

So – I called an urgent meeting with Royal Mail. I requested that they meet with me and Lib Dem Councillors from the affected areas. We represented all of these concerns – but unfortunately Royal Mail was unmoved. They responded to me a few weeks after the meeting, saying they would be going ahead with the relocations, and would consider whether or not to keep the free collection service at Archway Road.

So we have decided to step things up. Haringey Liberal Democrats and I are determined to show Royal Mail the strength of opinion on their proposed changes. As part of our campaign, we’ve started petitions, which local residents can add their names to.

We’re calling on Royal Mail to keep our collection services local. This means that, even if they relocate the sorting office, they should create or retain free local collection points – so that we do not have to travel ridiculous and impractical distances to pick up our undelivered parcels and mail.

In January, I’ll be calling another meeting with Royal Mail, and presenting these petitions to them. The more signatures we have, the better chance we have of getting them to change their minds. We already have over 1200 signatures for Hornsey!

I’m certainly not anti-modernisation. Royal Mail should move with the times and look to make their business more efficient and sustainable – but if the current plans go ahead, there will certainly be more losers than winners. It is vital that we convince Royal Mail to take another look at their plans, and adapt them to ensure that we do not lose out.

Sign the petitions here:

* Lynne Featherstone is a minister at the Department for International Development and blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.

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9 Comments

  • Colin Taylor 1st Dec '12 - 11:20am

    Where I live the Post Office now deliver to the nearest neighbour who is at home – unless there is an excess charge to pay. Why can’t they do that in Haringey, Highgate and Hornsey?

  • Richard Dean 1st Dec '12 - 3:49pm

    In Haringey, Highgate and Hornsey, Colin, there is a humungous, hobbit-like curosity about the contents of parcels and of all things in brown paper and with string or sellotape. Especially if they gleam. This is London, and the local MP is on the ball. Basically, you are not like to receive even the string if your neighbour gets to it first!

  • David Allen 1st Dec '12 - 7:47pm

    Out here in the sticks of deepest Rushcliffe, the RM collection point we have to visit is eight miles away. Or if we pay extra, we can get things redelivered to pick up at a post office that is merely four miles away.

    We live eight miles from Nottingham and one mile from a major trunk road, so we are not terribly rural, there must be many less well served. Postal “service”?

  • It does look like Lynne is experiencing at first hand the problems associated with the closure of local post offices et al that for many years has been perceived as a rural communities problem…

    Whilst Royal Mail do operate a ‘Local Collect’ service, it only covers Royal Mail – so not much use for all the various couriers used by mail order and internet businesses. The potentially better service is provided by http://www.useyourlocal.com (aside: community centre’s can register as an accepter of parcels) – I see that several pubs in the borough of Haringey are members of this scheme.

    The only problem is those companies that insist that the delivery address has to be the same as the registered address of the payment card used for the transaction.

  • i blame the governmemt for this. You should too.

  • Fomer Lib supporter 2nd Dec '12 - 12:24pm

    Lynne, you are a minister of a viscious government that is slashing all public services. Can”t you see the connection!
    I am a forner LibDem supporter in your constituency who will never vote Lib dem again.

  • lynne featherstone 2nd Dec '12 - 3:32pm

    The Labour government closed 5 of our local post offices in Hornsey & Wood Green before the closure program stopped. But that’s not the issue in terms of what is happening now – the issue is that Royal Mail don’t appear to be working out their estate in a timely and proper manner. This isn’t about the post offices – this is about the sorting offices. And rationalisation of the Royal Mail estate looks like it is more about poor decisions at the 11th hour with little care about the users. It doesn’t have to be this way.

  • “Royal Mail has accelerated its drive to introduce new technology and modernise working practices, but government insiders believe it will need to demonstrate a year of financial progress under the new regulatory regime before investors can be persuaded to buy shares”—from the FT.
    Nothing to do with Post Office privatisation then Lynne?

    Stop complaining about the results of policies that you yourself, as a government minister, are introducing. Its just not honest.

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