North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has questioned the First Minister following communications regulator Ofcom's proposal that Royal Mail reduce letter deliveries to as few as three days a week, “where consumer demand has changed drastically, but, at the same time, the public want that universal six-day service”.
It was recently announced that Royal Mail could cut delivery days to just three days a week and change first and second-class services under Ofcom proposals.
The company's Universal Service Obligation (USO) is to deliver letters daily Monday to Saturday and parcels daily Monday to Friday. Its main universal service products are sent using first class, which is delivered the next day, or second class, which is delivered within three days.
However, as the amount of letters sent has fallen by half – from 14.3 billion in 2011/2012 to 7.3 billion in 2022/2023 – Ofcom, the industry regulator, has called for reforms to ensure the service remains sustainable.
Questioning the First Minister over the proposals in today’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament, Mr Isherwood said:
“The Chief Executive of Ofcom made the point that we're sending half as many letters as we did in 2011 and receiving many more parcels, but the universal service obligation hasn't changed since then. Ofcom also noted that many other European countries, for the same reasons, have reduced frequency of delivery or extended delivery times for letters, including Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, in their document. However, last Wednesday, the Prime Minister pledged to maintain Royal Mail's obligation to deliver letters six days a week.
“Given that Ofcom will now be consulting on its proposals before providing an update in the summer and your indication that you will be engaging with Ofcom, including a meeting next week, what, if any, proposals do you have to square that circle, where consumer demand has changed drastically, but, at the same time, the public want that universal six-day service?”
In his response, the First Minister said the Welsh Government will “engage with those proposals, of course”.
“As I said, the Minister is meeting on 9 February with Ofcom. What we are concerned with is that, in any resolution of that dilemma, Welsh interests are not neglected and that vulnerable people are protected, and I don't imagine for a moment that the Member would dissent from either of those principles.”