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The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"The Post Office accepts it has fallen short of its targets"
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Postwatch chairman Peter Carr
"The biggest single cause [in postal delays] is the industrial relations problems that the Post Office has"
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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 22:17 GMT
Post Office 'failing to deliver'
Rural post office
Post offices are closing at the rate of almost two a day
By the BBC's Daniel Boettcher

Millions of first class letters are being delivered late while some mail is not turning up at all, according to the consumer watchdog Postwatch.

All of our jobs will depend on us delivering the mail in the way we say to the standards that we set

John Roberts
Post office chief
The watchdog says that standards at the Post Office are falling and claims that almost two million first class letters fail to arrive the following day as they should do.

The watchdog also claims that one million letters are lost each week.

And if services do not improve, rival systems could challenge the post office when the UK's postal system is prised open to third party competition from next week.

Shrinking services

Postwatch has called for an improved service and also criticised the closure of 600 local post office branches.

"There has to be a substantial improvement in the service levels - at the moment two million letters a day fail to be delivered on time," said Postwatch's Peter Carr.

"In addition, the rate of closures of post offices needs to be arrested and the services provided need to be expanded," added Mr Carr.

Six hundred Post Offices are expected to close by the end of this financial year.

Ending the monopoly

The Post Office, which is about to re-name itself as Consignia, is preparing for a new commercial environment.

From next week postal services will be thrown open to competition.

There has to be a substantial improvement in service levels

In theory other companies could then issue their own stamps, set up separate post boxes and arrange their own deliveries.

In practice, this is unlikely to happen in the short term.

But Postwatch, formerly the Consumer Council for Postal Services, is using the change to call for a better deal for consumers.

Competition from abroad

The Post Office disputes the figures on lost mail describing them as nonsense but admits that reliability is not as it should be.

The proportion of First class mail arriving on time for this financial year is expected to be less than 90%.

It blames disruption to mail train services following the Hatfield crash and what it describes as unacceptable levels of unofficial industrial action, but it says it's agreed improved delivery targets.

"We've got to get the message across very clearly to our staff that in fact our jobs, all of our jobs, in future will depend on us delivering the mail in the way we say to the standards that we set. If we don't do that there's going to be somebody round the corner- the Dutch or the Germans - who'll do it instead," said John Roberts, chief executive of the Post Office.

Though a number of companies have expressed an interest in starting rival services none have yet applied for the licence which they need to be allowed to compete.

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | UK
Letter monopoly could end
28 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Bank and net plan for post offices
22 Dec 00 | Business
Price cut 'threatens post offices'
09 Jan 01 | Business
UK Post Office name change
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