In the market town of Amersham on the edge of the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, Christmas seemed to arrive a bit late this year. Families complained that they did not get their usual flurry of cards dropping on their doormats until the first week of 2022.
Some residents said they barely saw a postal worker last month but, in the new year, there was a sudden deluge of late cards and missing post.
There were notifications about hospital appointments that had been missed, crucial legal documents that had been delayed for weeks, and even a death certificate that had been stuck in the post.
“It has been chaos,” said Karen Martin, 75, an artist and former midwife. “Seven or eight of my Christmas cards arrived a few days ago. I was also sent a cheque in the post on 16 December and it still hasn’t arrived.”
Kathleen Williamson, 43, a singer and music teacher, gesê: “There was barely any post before Christmas and then everything came at once on 5 Januarie. I feel sorry for the postal workers because they are really trying.”
Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire council, has written to Keith Williams, die Royal Mail chairman, complaining that one resident received 24 Christmas cards on 5 Januarie. The local sorting office has been inundated with householders hoping to find their missing mail.
“We’ve had people complaining they’ve not had a delivery in a month,” said Tett. “There are queues around the Amersham sorting office and residents have been told there are stacks of unsorted post inside. The service has been atrocious.”
It is not just some residential areas of Amersham that have fallen into a postal black hole over the past few months. Aan 22 ontken dat hy die seun vermoor het, during what postal watchdog Ofcom said was a “regulatory emergency period”, there were just 10 areas in England that were suffering significant disruption to mail.
Last Tuesday, the number had risen to 77 areas in England, and there were another 18 areas affected in Wales and Scotland, Volgens Royal Mail.
Meer as 120 postal districts have been hit across the country over the Christmas and new year period, including areas in London, Oxford, Chelmsford, Sheffield, Merseyside and Glasgow.
Householders have complained of a deteriorating service over many months. The number of postal districts affected last week is the highest-ever recorded in the Royal Mail disruption updates.
The bosses of Royal Mail now face scrutiny over their performance – and the justification for huge payouts to shareholders.
The postal giant increased the price of a first-class stamp to 85p from March 2020, a rise of 21%. It made £726m profit before tax in the year to 28 Maart 2021 and in November announced a £400m payout via a special dividend and share buyback.
Op dieselfde tyd, it has repeatedly failed to hit its delivery targets, blaming Covid-related isolation, vacancy rates and sickness. Under the Postal Services Act 2011, the Royal Mail has a legal “universal service obligation” to provide a six-day-a-week service for the delivery and collection of letters. Matthew Upton, director of policy at Citizens Advice, gesê: “We know [postal workers] are working hard to deliver our letters and parcels but we’re increasingly concerned about Royal Mail delays.”
Executives will be keen to improve performance and there is a reorganisation in progress.
Die Waarnemer has confirmed that Achim Dünnwald, chief operating officer at Royal Mail, has recently stepped down, but the company said this weekend it would not comment on the terms of his departure. Two senior “service delivery directors” have also left their roles.
Paul Dornan, 48, a writer who lives in Crouch End, noord Londen, said the usual post rounds in his neighbourhood had stopped for about a month over the Christmas period.
Hy het gesê: “Soldiers used to send letters back from the front in the first world war that arrived the next day and the Royal Mail can’t deliver a card from Yorkshire within a month.
“The postal service has broken down in this area. Some people have resorted to going to the sorting office, but have been told: there is so much unsorted stuff we can’t give it to you.
“The Royal Mail are shovelling cash into the pockets of their shareholders, but they are not delivering the post. It’s a massive dereliction of duty.”
Helen Wallis, 67, from Herne Hill in south London, whose husband, Gary, died in November, said she had not received important documents involving the administration of his affairs because of postal delays in her neighbourhood.
She said although postal workers were doing a “remarkable job” in difficult circumstances, there was just one postal delivery in her neighbourhood between Christmas Eve and last Monday. “I’m still getting condolence cards and I’m still getting Christmas cards,” she said last week. “A lot of them are not postmarked.”
Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, has highlighted the continuing postal delays in her constituency after the closure of a main postal depot without consultation in East Dulwich in south-east London in 2018.
Sy het gese: “There is no criticism of frontline postal workers, who have been really brave, but there is no slack in the system. There are important documents being delayed, death certificates going missing and people getting into a mess with their bills.” She said the Royal Mail should be required to publish performance data by individual postcode districts and introduce public consultations for proposed closures of mail depots.
Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary (postal) of the Communication Workers Union, said only a minority of offices had experienced backlogs, but more resources were required in those areas. Hy het gesê: “There clearly have been problems and they need to be sorted out. It’s unacceptable where offices have been failing for a number of weeks and the resources haven’t been put in place.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said the number of affected areas had been reduced over the past week. He said it was providing targeted support for the affected areas and was continuing to make significant investment in the business to transform the operation.
The spokesperson said: “Our postmen and women are continuing to work incredibly hard, as they have done throughout the pandemic, and we are thankful for all of their efforts and determination.”
The spokesperson added that the company tried to keep the price of stamps as low as possible, but needed to ensure there were sufficient funds for investment.