OFCOM’S REVIEW OF POSTAL USERS’ NEEDS AND THE USO
The purpose of this LTB is to update branches on a document and statement that was put out this morning by Ofcom, on its research assessing whether the USO meets the reasonable needs of users. Under the Postal Services Act any changes to the USO can only be made by the government following a vote in both Houses of Parliament and Ofcom’s research is designed to inform decisions on this.
Ofcom does not make any specific recommendations to the government on changing the USO, but its statement highlights two key findings: firstly, that changing the USO from 6 to 5 days for letters would continue to meet the needs of 97% of postal users; and secondly, that such a change to the USO would “potentially allow Royal Mail to make net cost savings of around £125m-£225m per year.” Clearly both statements it has highlighted will be used to make the case for a cut to the universal service, something we know certain shareholders in Royal Mail will be pushing for.
The union issued statements responding to Ofcom’s announcement which are attached to this LTB. In these we set out the union’s opposition to a cut to a 6 day postal service and highlighted that Ofcom’s own research shows significant public support for this. We also highlighted how the postal service has been clearly shown to be essential during the pandemic; how the regulator and government should be looking to expand the USO with more parcels and other new services, in order to ensure it is sustainable; and called on the government to support rather than scale back an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure.
While letter volumes have declined, in the statements we make clear that the union believes the role of the regulator and the government is to protect and enhance the universal service and reiterate our support for investment in new USO services and parcel automation to deliver greater efficiency. Ofcom’s statement reflects out of date thinking that inevitably leads towards managed decline.
As branches will recall, in the Joint Statement between Royal Mail and the CWU in July, we agreed to develop “a joint strategy to maintain the USO as part of the social fabric of the UK, including exploring the potential for new USO products to support its long-term economic sustainability” and we are continuing to work on this as part of the current talks.
Alongside this, the union will be lobbying the Government and politicians to make clear that it must not move away from a 6 day postal service and mounting a public campaign to defend jobs and a vital public service for the whole of the country.
A copy of Ofcom’s statement and a briefing note on Ofcom’s report are attached to this LTB.
Enquiries on the contents of this LTB regarding the Government and Regulators position, should be addressed to the General Secretary’s office email@example.com, enquiries relating to the impact on Royal Mail and CWU members should be addressed to the DGS (P) Department firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further updates on this work will be sent out to branches shortly.
Dave Ward Terry Pullinger
General Secretary Deputy General Secretary (P)