Royal Mail privatisation – another Lib Dem policy delivered

Among the Stricty Come Dancing banter on Twitter yesterday evening, I picked up some Labour activists attacking the Lib Dems. Nothing new there, you might think.

The attack was that the Lib Dems had betrayed our principles, done a u-turn and were privitising the Post Office.

I think we’re all familiar enough with Labour attacks by now to check those facts before jumping to any conclusions. And it turns out that the attack is wrong in every single respect.

The Government is not proposing to privatise the Post Office. And what’s being proposed, far from being a u-turn, is Lib Dem policy. It was in our manifesto and now we’re delivering on it.

Here’s what the Lib Dem manifesto says on the subject

Give both Royal Mail and post offices a long-term future, by separating Post Office Ltd from the Royal Mail and retaining Post Office Ltd in full public ownership. 49 per cent of Royal Mail will be sold to create funds for investment. The ownership of the other 51 per cent will be divided between an employee trust and the government.

So the proposal was to split the two, retain Post Office Ltd and privatise Royal Mail (with under 50% remaining in government ownership).

As Cable has said, the plan has modified slightly following further reports on the Royal Mail:

Outside investors will hold the most shares, and the rest will be offered to Royal Mail staff. Pension liabilities will be taken on by the government.

There is, of course, a very good reason for this Lib Dem policy.

Unlike previous Labour and Conservative governments, the Lib Dems do not want to preside over the closure of hundreds and thousands of local Post Office branches. Keeping the Post Office in public ownership is important.

But Royal Mail – the delivery service – is struggling with falling volumes of mail and competing against leaner private delivery companies. In the current economic climate, there’s little chance of the Royal Mail being able to raise money from the public purse to allow it to compete effectively. This move will allow it to raise the funds privately, and it won’t be crippled with pension liabilities either as the Government is proposing to retain those.

Not that this will stop Labour shouting “u-turn” and “betrayal” at every turn.

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70 Comments

  • Actually this means that we, the tax payer, are going to become burdened with Royal Mail’s pension liabilities. Perhaps if they got someone decent in, they’d be able to manage their own liabilities.

  • But it was NOT LibDem policy to allow private investors to become the majority shareholders in Royal Mail, was it? And this point was emphasised. So rather than trumpeting that this is a LibDem victory, it should be bemoaned. The very essence, that made this a LibDem policy, rather than a Tory policy, has been stripped from it.

  • TheContinentalOp 12th Sep '10 - 12:58pm

    Sorry Iain, but the tweak made to the manifesto pledge is both significant and disappointing.

    Like with the AV referendum, a more accurate headline to the article would be ‘Another Lib Dem Policy Diluted’. It really is disheartening.

    I was genuinely excited at the prospect of the Lib Dems in Government .But it is increasingly clear that the influence in Government comes from only a certain section of the party and even then it seems minimal.

    Now every time I hear the latest Coalition announcement I can’t help but think of Al Wilson’s Northern Soul classic The Snake. I hope they play it at conference before it’s too late.

  • Before the last government let competitors take the profitable bits of the mail away, Royal Mail was doing well.
    This is free market competition for its own sake, Royal Mail still has to deliver that mail, it’s just that the rival companies keep all the money, while Royal Mail go down the pan.

    Has anybody actually benefited from this competition besides Deutsche post etc.
    And now as a final insult, one of those companies will probably use the cash they made off the back of postal workers, to buy part of Royal Mail.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th Sep '10 - 1:09pm

    Another Lib Dem Policy Diluted

    That is how coalition governments work, yes. The Tories are crying about the same things being done to their precious policies. The Tory side of the government takes out the parts they find objectionable in Lib Dem policies, and the Lib Dem side takes out the parts they find objectionable in Tory policies. The result is policies that neither side really likes, but which both are willing to tolerate.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Sep '10 - 1:10pm

    “There is, of course, a very good reason for this Lib Dem policy.”

    I’m confused. I can see how this 100% privatisation can be coalition policy, but how can it be Lib Dem policy if it hasn’t gone through the party’s democratic structures? Or has it? Or has the party constitution been suspended?

  • TheContinentalOp 12th Sep '10 - 1:33pm

    @ Andrew

    We’re bending far more than they are. They’re playing a much better – more clever – game. They’ve got Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander out on the frontline defending cuts which many Lib Dem supporters are uncomfortable with. Compare that to how diluted hopes and enthusiasm for PR have become.

    The whole AV referendum seems like classic smoke and mirrors, appearing to give us what we’ve wanted while actually giving us nothing.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    Yes this is how coalitions work, but to claim this as a LibDem policy victory, or a manifesto commitment fulfilled is, to say the least, slightly disingenuous.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Sep '10 - 1:50pm

    “The post office is being partially privatised, with significant stakes going to the workers and being kept by the government”

    Apparently the new policy is for the government to retain no stake in Royal Mail.

    It also sounds to me as though the “employee trust” has been dropped, so that the employees will just receive some shares in the privatised company.

  • This isn’t Lib Dem policy.
    Vince Cable clearly talked about a complete sell off
    when the announcement was made not 49%.

    As for Hooper what a joke. His previous report outlined
    what New Labour wanted now he has updated it to what
    the coalition wants.

    Talk about he who pays the piper. The whole thing is badly
    thought out.

    The biggest loss maker is Post Office Counters but nobody
    dares propose privatising them.

    That said i am not advocating the status quo, New Labour
    nearly wrecked the industry with its unfair competition regime
    and the appointment of an incompetent senior management
    team.

    Employee involvement is a good idea, a partnership with the
    private sector is not something i would rule out but it has to
    make sense so far it hasn’t.

    Just selling out to TNT isn’t very attractive for the public who
    rely on Royal Mail.

    There are further changes that could bring efficiency savings
    within the public sector.

    The governments plan will privatise the profit and nationalise
    the debt.

  • The thing is, the more you read about this, the more it becomes apparent that this Tory policy, lock; stock and smocking barrels. If this policy had been debated in the party, it would not have been adopted, not without changes. The exact changes that have been ripped from the stated manifesto commitment. This is the archetypal Tory privatisation policy. There is nothing LibDem about it. Very much the same thing as being said about the Parliamentary party.

  • The libdems need to start being honest about how crappy the Tory policies are and stop pretending they agree. Otherwise the will deserve being wiped out at the next election.

  • John Fraser 12th Sep '10 - 3:39pm

    Iain I am curious as to whether you are trying to make you post deliberately provokative by playing around with ‘facts’ . In normal time this might be OK but at times where everything the Lib dems stand for seem to be being ditched each of your inaccurate posts may be costing the part membership.

    Do you go to conference by the way Iain?

    The reason i ask as that if you did you would surely remeber that a similar policy to the one being proposed was referred back by conference because of its ‘privatisation worship’ undertones. The subsequent policy was deemed acceptable on the grounds that a the Post officves natural monopoly would should NOT have a majority of private ownership. To therefore say that this current policy is Liberal Democrat is a total disenfrenchisement of our conference and somewhat insulting to our democratic procedures.

    If you are trying to simply be provocative then trust me now for the parties sake is not the time. If you actually believe that this is a Liberal Democrat victory (and were aware of our conferences decisions) please advise me how how your posting is not a reinvention of the facts.

  • The plan “has modified slightly”( Cable)

    Ever so slightly, Vince.

  • matthew fox 12th Sep '10 - 5:05pm

    More job losses on the way, just what we need at the moment.

    Glad Lib Dems have gone all in with this stupidity.

  • Royal Mail privatisation – another unpopular Conservative policy announced by a Lib Dem

  • I don’t understand all this. Telecoms, electricity, gas and water have already been privatised, and it seems to have worked: no one wants to renationalise them. Why is the Post Office supposed to be any different?

  • vince thurnell 12th Sep '10 - 6:55pm

    It is a total u turn, in your manifesto you advocated a partial privatisation, now it has moved on and you are advocating total privatisation . If you cant see the difference between the two you really are deluded. What was needed for Royal Mail to compete in the open market was to lift some of the restrictions on them and allow them to compete on a level playing field. Instead you party has taken the normal Tory plan ie flog it off . Oh and by the way that failing Royal Mail actually made a profit last year.

  • vince thurnell 12th Sep '10 - 7:03pm

    ad, and who did the privatisation of those work for ?. The general public or the foreign shareholders that see their profits rise year on year.

  • Spot on Vince.

    None of the three major parties advocate renationalisation
    because they seem afraid to break with the post Thatcherite
    consensus.

    Nearly all the privatised organisations are natural monopolies
    and there is no real competition.

    The regulators are a joke they don’t protect the rights of consumers.
    The Dutch Post Office was privatised and now only does three deliveries
    a week in rural areas.

    My concern about the current coalition proposal is that you will very
    quickly see Saturday deliveries go and more Post Offices will close.

    What next fewer collection points and collections. The end of universal
    pricing?

  • Nice to see your’e doing such a good job keeping the excesses of the slash and burn sell everything devil take the hindmost Torys.Still I’ll be looking foreward to your next wetter than a fishes wet bits caption competition.
    Bring on the winter of discontent I know which side L’ll be on.
    A few weeks ago when I asked how you as Lib dems felt about the holacaust the ordinary people will suffer under your masters (cos thats what they are) one of you said proud blimy I dread what level of betreyal, cowardice or innifectual tinkering would make you feel ashamed.

  • privatisations that didnt work
    Rail
    Hospital cleaning (thousands died of cross infection – nothing said)
    De mutal of Banks
    bank deregulation
    Water charges through the roof
    Nuc power

    and we have to do something about telecoms if we cannot get broadband to rural areas

    Next the Lib Dem Ministers will be saying “There is no society”

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Sep '10 - 9:51pm

    It is policies like this that make me ashamed to be a LibDem ( I voted against this destructive nonsense when it was steamrollered through the Harrogate Conference some years ago) . I am also ashamed of those Lib\Dems who are helping to prop up this dire Tory government.

    I have cancelled my subscription to Liberal Democrat News and will be donating the money to the Union of Communication Workers’ strike fund.

  • Another of those many moments over the last couple of months where I’ve had metaphorical bricks thrown at me and been able to say “Exactly, that’s why I left the party!”. Boy, do I know that I made the right decision…

  • vince thurnell 12th Sep '10 - 10:42pm

    Christo, so you’re solution is simply ‘sell it off ‘ then . What forward thinking that is, there are many different ways this could of been tackled , the first one being to lift the restrictions Royal Mail have to work under, afterall i daresay once its privatised and the profits are going to a foreign investor those restrictions will be lifted anyway.

    Royal Mail currently makes a profit and thats working under the restrictions they currently work under , so why sell it off and see that money go to a foreign company instead of the government coffers and at the same time release the company that buys Royal Mail from any fears of the pension deficit by passing that onto the taxpayer. The answer is simple , the Toriies friends in the city stand to make a nice buck out of it.

    One thing this has reassured me on though and that is far from the lib dems being a left of centre party , they’re nearly as right wing as the Tories . Hopefully the decent Liberal democrats out there that do believe in social justice will put pressure on the likes of Cable and co and get them to backdown because if they don’t in many peoples eyes you will be no better than the Tory party themselves.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Sep '10 - 10:44pm

    Christo,
    If you and your ilk persist in insulting those who disagree with you and urging them to join other parties, the memberships of the “pseudo-Marxist parties” you so despise (can you name any, by the way?) will soon be large compared with that of the LibDems.

    When I joined the Liberal Party, in 1962 (before the man who is now leading them to disaster was born), it had five or six MPs, so I am not driven away that easily. I just wonder whether the LibDems will have as many MPs as that in five years’ time and whether any member of the current Cabinet will be among them.

    Oh, and by the way, it is not synonymous with wanting “State Socialist policies” to point out that Royal Mail and the Post Office are not separate organisations but two parts of an integrated operation. For much of its history “Royal Mail” was nominally part of The Post Office (prior to 1967, “The General Post Office”). Now “Post Offfice Ltd” is a subsidiary of “Royal Mail”. But hey-ho let’s break them up on the whim of a bunch of politicians enjoying a brief sojourn in office and behaving like destructive children.

    Clegg wants the Liverpool Conference to be a “celebration” of LibDems in government. I think I’ll give it a miss.

  • Grammar Police 12th Sep '10 - 11:16pm

    @ Nick (not Clegg)

    “Royal Mail and the Post Office are not separate organisations but two parts of an integrated operation. For much of its history “Royal Mail” was nominally part of The Post Office (prior to 1967, “The General Post Office”). Now “Post Offfice Ltd” is a subsidiary of “Royal Mail”. But hey-ho let’s break them up on the whim of a bunch of politicians enjoying a brief sojourn in office and behaving like destructive children.”

    But Lib Dem policy was always to at least part-privatise the Royal Mail, way before our “brief sojourn in office”.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Sep '10 - 11:31pm

    No , not “always”: just since that abysmal conference decision the day after Ming was elected leader.

  • The policy is to retain the Post Office Network primarily Sub Post Offices run as franchises by independent shopkeepers or larger retailers such as WH Smith. No really much of a Public Sector operation in reality.
    The argument being that by retaining POCL within the Public sector it will protect the network is also something of a Myth, unless of course Government (Any Government) is prepared to heavily subsidise the network on a permanent basis.
    Privatising Royal Mail is more likely to hasten the further demise of the Post Office as it will break the existing link between them. After all as far as Royal Mail is concerned the link provides nothing more than a point for the collection of mail and selling of stamps, combined with a convenient (arguable) point of collection for undelivered items which the customer can collect. All services which can be provided either directly through Royal Mail’s own local offices or through alternate retail outlets and probably at a more competitive price (to Royal Mail).

    ON THE LARGER ISSUE of Royal Mail Privatisation the main arguments are that of modernisation, falling volume, the Pension deficit, the need for investment and to protect the Universal Service.
    Perhaps the first question that should be asked is just what is the Universal Service? Although the term is used frequently it is in fact something which has never been defined beyond a vague principal of it costing the same amount to post a letter to any part of the UK. Whether deliveries are made to individual addresses, or the frequency of those deliveries (daily or less frequently) has never been defined. In this respect it has to be recognised that the UK is the only Country in the Worl to provide a “daily” delivery to every address. In other Countries you either have mail delivered to a (rented) post box at a central point, or delivery is only made on certain days. Modernisation just what does that mean, in terms of Royal Mail that means installing sorting machines which while certainly capable of sorting mail much faster, are lready losing their effeciency effectiveness as they are unnable to handle thicker or larger items, which due to pricing in proportion have and continue to increase.

    Investment. The previouse Government provided over 7 million as an investment loan more than five years ago, surprisingly it still hasnt been spent.

    The Pension Fund? Within the past year the deficit has reduced from 10 billion to 8.2 billion a reduction of 25% simply by a change in its investment policies. While the deficit is still huge it has be taken in the perspective that valuations are based upon the absolute worswe case scenario of everyone living to a very ripe old age and all requiring to be paid at once. As can be evidenced by the past 12 months Pension Fund values can vary by very wide margins and the current deficit owes much to the Thatcher decision in the 80’s of allowing employers to take Pension Holidays (in RM’s case a 14 year holiday).

    Falling volume. The Hooper Report focuses on a projected 50% reduction. However it provides no basis or analysis on which that figure can be assessed. Certainly volumes have reduced and may well continue to do so, but remeber that between 1975 and 2000 mail was increasing at then unprecedented levels of up to 20% pa, contrary to all forecasts.

    Again Modernisation, the need to change? Royal Mail in very recent years has shed over 60,000 jobs, is in the process of closing many of its existing Mail Centres and Delivery Offices which will inevitably mean furtherr job losses. After a very difficult period when they attempted to force this through on a go it alone basis, they have now an agreed process and methodology for change with their Unions.

    Finally who are the likely buyers, given that most frequently qouted contender TNT has made huge losses in its home market where like Royal Mail it has responsibility for providing the Universal Service and is currently attempting to sell that sector of its operation. Given that within the UK existing Postal Operators can aklready get Royal Mail to deliver their Mail at below cost there doesnt seem much of an attraction.

    So the absolute bottom line is how much is the current UK Government prepared to undersell the Royal Mail, either by selling it below its market value or by providing profit guarantees to any prospective buyer.

  • John Fraser 13th Sep '10 - 9:44am

    @ Mark Pack (If he is reading ).

    Regarding our previous exchange. I dont think this policy announcement is or will do much to incease party moral ? ( I have a lot of respect for the things you have done in the party and therefore did find it genuinely worrying that it was your honestly held perception was that there was only one or two people in every constituancy that was concerned by the way in which this coalition was drifting . Genuinely curious to know if and when your perception will start to change)

  • even the usa has not sold off the mail

  • vince thurnell 13th Sep '10 - 11:38am

    A serious question, how many lib dem members on this board actually agree with the full privatisation of Royal Mail ?.

  • Jessica Ottowell 13th Sep '10 - 12:20pm

    I don’t see how this is anything but Thatcherite loon policy and to dress this up as anything but is downright disgusting, it’s this kind of lunacy that has led to the mess we see on todays rail network, it will lead to nothing more than the mess we see on the east coast mainline, not to mention a rise in prices. This will most likely lead to many more uk based businesses folding, as it stands my own business can just about to trade, this will most likely lead to the end of any profit to me.

    I don’t see why we are backing the tory party in the first place, it seems shear insanity and one that most likely will see labour (or worse, the BNP) getting in next election. I, myself still think we must undo the vast majority of Thatcher’s experiment as well as getting us back manufacturing again.

    This move makes my own job here even harder (as PR for a north east branch), perhaps we should be playing to the people of the north more as here it is between us and labour with most not even realising that they had a local Lib Dem party.

  • Iain. if this becomes the Labour position, http://www.davidmiliband.net/2010/09/13/why-i-oppose-privatisation-of-the-royal-mail/ ; how many LibDem MPs, do you think would vote against the policy, in favour of such an amendment?

  • mike cobley 13th Sep '10 - 1:13pm

    The post office/royal mail, like utilities and the nhs and education, are public services – their core function is NOT to make profits/pay shareholder dividends/pay whale-choking salaries & bonuses, but to provide for the wellbeing and cohesion of the nation. Therefore we have the right to expect our government to ringfence them from market mechanisms that would attempt to turn them into revenue streams for private sector enrichment (yes, I know that the utilities were Thatcherised but I would want to see them at least converted into non-profit organisations).

    But when you’re in a coalition government, you end up being responsible for all the crappy crap which the other party inflicts on the country, whether you like it or not. And our party, Liberal Democrats, are starting to wake up to this truth. This isn’t a coalition, its a hijacking.

    Pull the plug, NOW!

  • Why on earth does it matter who puts the letters through my door? There needs to be a universal obligation but apart from that it makes noi difference whether it is publicly or privately owned.
    @Andy – the taxpayer is already committed to paying the pension liabilities so your comment is nonsense.
    @nick (not clegg) if this really ‘makes you ashamed to be a LibDem’ you need to get a life.

  • Barry George 13th Sep '10 - 4:06pm

    @Mark Pack

    John: I’m with Keynes on this – my views will change when the evidence changes (Either existing evidence altering, e.g. a change from healthy to unhealthy membership renewal rates, or new evidence, e.g. a reputable phone poll of party membership.)

    Really ? Are you sure you know what you are saying Mark. You are implying that your opinions of political policy are not based on your independant point of view but are instead guided by a percieved believe that you are in a majority. That if the opinions of others change then so will you but until others have independant thought you will blindly support whatever policies the coalition puts forward.

    That would make you one of the sheeple !

    I didn’t think your political stance was so shallow. I hope I am wrong.

  • Barry George 13th Sep '10 - 4:18pm

    erm back to school for me

    Believe = belief

    Independant = independent

    Etc…

    I will write 500 times. Do not make posts when your’e in a hurry 🙂

  • vince thurnell 13th Sep '10 - 4:35pm

    smCg, you’re so right, what does it matter if a few thousand people lose their jobs so the shareholder can get their dividend. What does it matter that another public service is sold off so big business can make even more money. What does it matter that another lib dem manifesto pledge gets thrown aside. What does it matter if services are cut and we end up with a delivery service like they get abroad ie 2-3 deliveries a week. What does it matter if rural communities that rely on their postman for a whole variety of services lose those extra services just so the shareholder can get the dividend. What does it matter that another one of our public services will end up being owned by a foreign company because as you say what does it matter who delivers your letters.

  • David Allen 13th Sep '10 - 5:35pm

    “Why on earth does it matter who puts the letters through my door? There needs to be a universal obligation but apart from that it makes no difference whether it is publicly or privately owned.”

    Because a private owner will, sure as eggs is eggs, adopt a strategy to phase out the universal obligation, and thereby improve their profit. First it’ll be twice a week to Benbecula, then once a week, then once a month, then it will be “We carried three letters to Benbecula last month, it cost us £50 each, so we’ll have to charge £50 postage from now on. Oh, so you don’t want to pay, well, thanks for withdrawing from our network, Benbecula!” Now then, what about those awkward villages in Hampshire that are half a mile off the main road?

    So, you’re a private company, and you have higher ethical standards than that, and you won’t plan to act that way? Well, your business model will tell you how much it is worth paying for RM. Guess what, you’ve been outbid by the guys whose ethical standards are lower!

  • Not that this will stop Labour shouting “u-turn” and “betrayal” at every turn.

    I imagine they would shout u-turn at every turn!

  • Vince Thurnell asks how many LibDem members posting here are opposed to this policy. Well, I am for one. It’s 35 years since I spent a year as a postman but successive Tory and Labour governments seem to have spent that time building the coffin of a one great service and then hammering nails into the lid. Most days for years I walked a few hundred yards to the local post office with my business’s parcels: when it was forcibly closed I would go less frequently to the main post office which became a progressively more and more horrible place to queue, and which was then shoehorned into WH Smiths. There is now no point in taking parcels there: I don’t have the time to waste, and a courier comes to my door every day to see if I need to send anything, and if I do it is cheaper than the Royal Mail anyway. The only time I go to a post office now is to buy stamps to send out my invoices or to pay bills, but it is only that I am a luddite that stops me sending the invoices by email and paying the bills by BACS – it will happen eventually though.

  • “On the latter, you’re right – just because the majority thinks something, isn’t reason in itself to agree with it.”

    But you do. We frequently see lib dems apparently agreeing with everything the majority of the coalition wants.

    I don’t even think you know what you believe any more. You just go with the flow. And call it consensus.

  • Barry George 13th Sep '10 - 7:58pm

    Mark

    Mea culpa. I presumed you were speaking on the topic of this thread. I am pleased to read that you’re not a ‘sheeple’ to the party. I speak often of my disquiet of current party policy but I continue to read this site because if change is to happen then it all starts from the independent minds of core members.

    I sense a great deal of denial on this site of the very real problems facing the party. Most significantly a denial (or more accurately a refusal to even see) that we are loosing our identity by continuing to support and defend Conservative policies that are not part of our ideology, such as the one highlighted in this article. However it is here, on this site, that I also read some independent minded contributors who are willing to begin to question parts of this new status quo.

    For the record, I don’t believe that the very real and serious problems with our new found fame can be explained away by rising membership or local council elections. It is our identity as a party that is in free fall. The party is changing, some would say evolving, but I would disagree.

    How the party evolves can be influenced here. Some of us are here in hope that the party we voted for is not transforming itself into a mini Tory party. The evidence for that, so far, is overwhelming.

    I hope that you will continue to support independent minded contributors and in turn I hope that they take us away from articles such as this in which we make ourselves look ludicrous by bending over backwards to say that black is white and white is black.

    As can be seen by the responses to this article, nobody (well nearly nobody) is falling for it. We are not the conservatives. We are a separate and independent party. The quicker that Nick and co realise this the quicker we can begin the repair.

    Those who contribute to this site and those going to conference can help start the recovery of the party. Of course membership gains are to be commended but it is the diminishing view of the party in the media and the wider public that needs to be corrected and this can only be done by accepting and promoting the separate identity of the party from Conservatives.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Sep '10 - 12:18am

    “A reputable opinion poll of party members would also be very relevant evidence as to what the clear majority of party members are thinking.”

    You want a “reputable opinion poll” to convince you that party members are unhappy with what the coalition is doing. Yet you are happy to quote non-scientific, self-selecting online LDV polls so long as they support the line that the membership is happy. That’s a pretty one-sided approach to polling, isn’t it?

    Anyhow, I suspect that when the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review are announced, you will see a reputable opinion poll of party members that will show they are far from happy with what is about to happen. But what you don’t say is whether that will have any effect on your standpoint. Will you just be arguing that “the membership is wrong because …”, or what?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Sep '10 - 12:26am

    Oh, and if reputable polls of the electorate in general mean anything to you, the latest YouGov has net approval of the government falling to a new low of -5%, with the Lib Dems at 12%, hovering just above their low of 11% so far.

    But I suspect the LDV editorial line is now that “YouGov doesn’t count”. Completely coincidental with the fact that they’re not coming up with the results you want to hear, of course …

  • So the peasants are finally revolting .
    Great, where do I sign up? Liverpool?

  • John Fraser 14th Sep '10 - 4:42pm

    @ Mark Pack
    It would be a shame if lots of people had to leave the party before the leadership started to take notice of their views . (Still here for now but patience is wearing a bit thin) . Wish there were more policy debates on specific coalition proposals to test the water this year (dont know of any apart from Free Schools ). I think that conference committe has followed the govenment line too much initially. It is very difficult for many members to say they are ‘Against’ the coalition per se as that is de facto to publically no confidence the leader. It is the coalitions policies that so many (in my experience) are finding it impossible to defend. If you genuinely wish to test my point out though then ask people at future meetings you attend if they agree with Full post office privatisation . (or many of the other policies that are starting now to emerge) .

  • Postman in despair 14th Sep '10 - 8:16pm

    I make no apologies for this rant. If the coalition government takes Royal Mail down the privatisation road to ruin I hope no-one currently supporting this policy dares to complain about how bad their postal service is in the years to come.

    Curently, we have the second cheapest postal system in Europe behind Ireland. After privatisation just watch and see how your postal deliveries will become fewer per week, more expensive per item and more confusing to work out which delivery company is delivering what to where and when.

    People say Royal Mail is inefficient compared to its competitors. What else would you expect from a company expected to do their own competitors work for them for a pittance? What efficiency savings we make our competitors using our network make threefold and they don’t have the huge outlay of a nationwide delivery network to keep going.

    We’ve made massive savings year on year. Lost thousands of jobs year on year and in return we’ve failed to get the modernisation machinery we’ve been promised year on year.

    Our postmen and women spend so much of our time, effort and energy delivering our competitors post for a Government set-rate pittance while our competitors cream off the profits. For example one company, UK Mail, don’t call the current situation “competition” with Royal Mail, they call it co-opetition. Royal Mail do the labour and cost intensive final mile delivery while they rake off their easily made gains.

    As others have said the tax payers will be picking up the tab for the pensions deficit allowing whichever private investors to come in and take over the lucrative parts of a profitable company without having to worry about its pension pot debt. Furthermore they will be able to take over a service probably finally free of the Government shackles and universal obligation hoops the company currently has to jump through. Under the current situation Royal Mail will continue to be other companies cash cow until it’s dying day. Instead of privatisation why not take those shackles off us now and let us compete on an even footing?, instead of with both arms tied behind our backs.

    No doubt some Government owned, tax payer subsidiary of theRoyal Mail [bad debt of the pensions deficit allied with the most unprofitable end of the business] will still be stuck even after privatisation with delivery to the furthest corners of the UK, the dangerous inner city areas where other companies would fear to tread, just so politicians can say the UK still has a universal service (delivery to every door in Britain) after privatisation.

    Britain’s postal industry was de-regulated years ago allowing this influx of foreign competitors to flood our market. Most of Europe’s other national postal networks won’t have to go through de-regulation until 2012. Royal Mail was sold down the river through de-regulation many years before we had to be. Now instead of having had the time to become stronger, more efficient and more profitable to compete we’ve had to spend the last 5 years suffering death by a thousand cuts at the hands of our own Government, giving billions in the meantime to the very companies we should have been preparing to compete on a firm footing with18 months from now.

    The Post Office network these politicians don’t want to touch are already privately run franchises. It’s a con for politicians to say they will leave this area of the business untouched by the changes. Without Royal Mail’s network and business to support them they won’t survive except the select few maybe as delivery hubs for selling any number of different delivery companies products. They’ll be to post what carphone warehouse are to mobile phones. How many of those stores do you have in your local village?

  • @Mark Pack
    As a quick comment following your exchange with John Fraser, I would say among my friends, who are largely middle-class and politically non-aligned, the vast majority of them voted Lib Dem, many for the first time. My feelings now, as someone who, sometimes disingenuously, defends the coalition, is that virtually every single one of them won’t vote for the Liberal Democrats again, at least unless there is strong evidence of improvement coming from the government’s policies.
    Another point: my suspicion is that the Party is losing social democratic membership and gaining more centre-right members. Does this sound credible to you?

  • @ MPG
    Dont yet know about Mark Pack but it certainly makes sense to me.

    Just out of curiosity MPG are you a party member ?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 12:47am

    Mark

    Absolutely. I reckon most of the current Cleggie cheerleaders are actually too young to remember how Tories behave in government. Perhaps it’s one of those tragic lessons each generation has to learn painfully for itself.

  • Patrick Smith 15th Sep '10 - 5:36pm

    The `Coalition Government’ must take note of the main considered recommendations of the Hooper Report in order to make the Royal Mail competitive,pension solvent and in providing a quality postal service to the customers.

    I support moving the implementation of the L/D Conference vote at Harrogate on keeping the majority of Royal Mail ownership in public hands i.e.privatisation of 49% private shares.

    Hooper has sifted through the Royal Mail delemna over 18 months and reported:

    1.A universal decline in letter mail of 25%-40% is predicted over the next phase of postal services business.

    2.There must be modernisation.

    3.There is a massive pension deficit by some £8 million.

    4.There must be greater dialogue between management and workforce whose ideas should be part of the future role of the post office services.

    5.The post office services must meet the demand needs of today`s customers in the market place, that include digitalised post.

    It is important for L/Ds to campaign to uphold the retention of the brand name Royal Mail with a majority ownership in the public sector and for the Government to now assume control of the pension investment.

    Many closed Post offices should be re-opened where there is a measured local demand and small businesses encouraged to use Royal Mail services.

    It is innevitable that part of Royal Mail i.e.49% as asked in the L/D Manifesto will be privatised so to attract the necessary capital investment and to improve customer delivery and to re-open closed post offices .

  • vince thurnell 15th Sep '10 - 8:51pm

    Patrick, with all due respect you don’t know what your talking about. There is already a modernisation agreement with the workforce in place. It is three year deal and this is year one of the deal. Already around 12 mail centres have closed and there are ongoing talks around another 17 shutting. Walk sorting machines are already being implemented in the larger delivery offices and all parts of Royal Mail are involved in talks around savings at the moment. So basically what is gong to happen is you are going to have a modernised post office which will make more profit than it already does and at that time its going to be sold off.

    The pension deficit although at 8 billion pounds is actually less of a deficit than it was last year when it stood at 10 billion.

    What needs to happen is Royal Mail should be allowed to set their own pricing and should not have to process the competitors mail for them at a loss. If this happened there would be no need for privatisation because it would stop the competitors creaming off the lucrative work by undercutting Royal Mail with Royal Mail not being allowed to compete because of their price restrictions.

    All of the above will happen but it will happen when Royal Mail is privatised allowing whoever buys them to make a vast profit and claim they sorted Royal Mail when the truth is it could be sorted out now.

  • Postman in despair 15th Sep '10 - 9:15pm

    Patrick,

    I’ll try and give you some insight into how I feel about these changes and how the political rhetoric impacts upon the reality of someone who work in the industry.

    The decline in letter volumes is much touted but believe me as a postman if I hadn’t seen the figures I’d argue it’s going the other way! On delivery we know we’re carrying more items now than ever before. The difference is Royal Mail isn’t getting the full or a realistic level of payment for the competitors items we deliver. Mail volumes are falling but not as quickly as the numbers of postmen and women who are required to do the work.

    Modernisation is happening but not as fast as us postmen were promised either. In our local delivery office we have seen no modernisation equipment at all and we were promised walk sequencing machines as recompense for the cuts we agreed in 2007/8.

    Royal Mail’s workforce has been dramatically cut from 200 000 in 2005 to about 130 000 now but without most of the modernisation equipment that was promised as the trade off tor those cuts.

    As a result we have a ridiculously high workload to keep up with. Our fear is fuller modernisation will happen alongside even more staff losses. We’ll forever have an increasing workload falling on an ever decreasing number of staff. Instead of being brought in to improve the service any modernisation with much more staff cuts now will just continue to reduce our effectiveness.

    The improvements from full modernisation will be limited when it comes to the final mile (local delivery offices), the main flux of this modernisation will come to the regional mail centres. In our delivery office we spend 1.5 hours to 2 hours a day hand sorting mail. The standard of service we receive now from our new (and more efficient and not yet fully modernised regional mail centre) is far poorer than the service we had from our now closed local mail centre.

    Full modernisation and staffing levels of mail centres and delivery office could save us an hour’s workload a day but at present many of my colleagues are already going over our duty times to almost that to finish the large deliver walks we currently have. These walks will just continue to be made longer until postmen will have to admit we just can’t deliver everything we’re being asked to in the day.

    Mr Hooper conveniently skates over the fact that de-regulation to our postal industry was also brought in too early at a time when Royal Mail wasn’t in the position to benefit from it. It was a huge mistake.We’ve been playing catch up ever since in a competitive and declining market made harder by effectively giving away the lucrative areas of the business to the competition in the meantime.

    The entire case for privatisation seems solely to be to bring in external investment to modernise the industry quicker than will happen currently. The price we will all pay for this privatisation will be huge. Those delivery postmen and women who keep their jobs will have to work until we literally drop from exhaustion every day.

    The Universal service obligation will be trimmed, the goalposts will be moved to fit the new regime, the price of posting items will go up massively. We’re currently the 9th cheapest service in Europe (not the 2nd as I posted above) behind Austria, Italy, Czech republlic, Spain, Estonia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania) none of which are likely to be big players in the competition stakes.

    Big business customers will undoubtedly benefit from privatisation even more than they do now. Everyday customers and small businesses will not, as Hooper reported in 2008. The social fabric of this country will be severely damaged as private investors won’t care about that side of things one iota.

    Privatisation will mean even more post offices, private franchises as they are, will close. It won’t magically allow more to re-open. The new investors have no reason to saddle themselves with the loss making post office counters network at all.

    The Government’s bent on introducing competition was key to the decline in the post office network – tendering out contracts such as passports, driving licences, tv licences etc to others is what helped destroy the network in the first place. Now they want to see what’s left of it preserved? Political hypocrisy.

    Much of the pensions deficit was accrued when the Government and Royal Mail management agreed on a 14 year payment holiday into the fund. Meantime the Government took the profits while the management speculated the rest away in ridiculous overseas schemes and Consignia (remember that?).

    The deficit has actually fallen from £10 Billion a year or so ago to about £8 Billion now. As the stock market dips and falls so will the deficit. As also it will fall further when more thousands of Royal Mail employees are made redundant and their pension pot is reduced.

    I agree the Government should take full responsibilty for the pensions deficit, it’s their company after all and they have presided over a lot of the problem but to do so while selling off the £26 Billion assets owned by Royal Mail and the annual £350M the company pays into the deficit is ridiculous. The taxpayer will pick up the tab for it all while allowing the new owners to turn their back on these responsibilites as the lure for the investment.

    As for standards of service, Royal Mail meets the strict delivery targets set by Governement, as more cuts come in it becomes harder to achieve but the service is very, very good considering the cost of a stamp. Maybe the overall service will improve further in percentage terms (from current 93%) with privatisation but whether it will be better value for money for joe public than it is now considering the inevitable price hikes is very debateable.

    This coalition government is washing its hands of a fine public institution by offering privatisation that will benefit far, far fewer in the country than it disadvantages.

  • One of the benefits of the coalition, is that it will drive some of the rather ineffectual Labour Lite “bed-blockers” out of the party. I am organising a party training event in October and I can report a surge in interest from new members.

    There is nothing particularly liberal about feather-bedding public sector workers and giving them guaranteed pay increases, regardless of their performance. We don’t get it in the private sector, so why should we pay for the public sector to have it?

  • pw does that mean that the lib dems do not want any public sector workers in it? I suppose that the actions taken will ensure that – oops, shame many private sector workers will be massively affected too, perhaps they will not notice what the condems are doing to every part of their lives

  • PW… Posted 18th September 2010 at 12:46 am ………One of the benefits of the coalition, is that it will drive some of the rather ineffectual Labour Lite “bed-blockers” out of the party. I am organising a party training event in October and I can report a surge in interest from new members…….

    Yes! Get rid of all those, who over the years, defined LibDempolicy….At your “party training event” perhaps you might consider a ‘name change’?.

    “Torytwo” comes to mind…

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