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 As part of the reorganisation, the free collection point at Archway Road may be withdrawn.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.