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Equally the Tories must face up to the conclusion that under their proposals it

Posted on 22 October 2010

Equally, the Tories must face up to the conclusion that, under their proposals, it will be impossible to maintain the daily delivery service at a universal standard price.It is time for the politicians, on all sides, to confront the public with the brutal truth that a universal mail delivery at a standard price has had its day, and that it is no business of government or its agencies to be involved in such an activity. In every other system of distribution, most notably food, the public has largely chosen, through the dynamics of the market, to dispense with doorstep delivery – or decided to pay the extra costs if they want such a luxury.I recall, as a child, that there was always some regular trader hammering at the door The baker came on Mondays, Wednesday and Friday. The butcher came on Friday, the grocer on Tuesday, and the milkman and the newspaper boy arrived every day. Today, all – even the milkman – are virtually a thing of the past. Customers have voted with their feet to collect their own provisions themselves from their own suppliers.

No government was involved in any of these changes.Society has evolved with the market place, and the desire of consumers to shop around; customers willingly choose to forgo the convenience of doorstep delivery in favour of the supermarket run. No doubt if food distribution had been nationalised we would still be having interminable arguments as to whether daily deliveries of bread and milk should be subsidised at taxpayers’ expense.So why do we still accept that post vans and postmen, which are legacies of our Victorian past, should still traipse to every address in the land? It is time for the public and the politicians to face up to the obvious. If Rowland Hill, who invented the system 160 or so years ago, were to return to earth he would be horrified that his once-revolutionary system of communication had not kept pace with technology. What would he make of the e-mail, the fax, the telephone and the text message? He would surely be the first to say that in such circumstances the day of the traditional postman and universal daily letterbox delivery service was done.The post-box hire system is a much more efficient way for us to distribute what remains of the declining number of paper items we still need to deliver to each other.

Most people would surely prefer the convenience of calling, at their convenience, at a collection point in their town or village, at the time of day to suit themselves. If we knew that our mail could be properly collected from a sorting office, newsagents, village shop, or even the doctor’s surgery, where we could pay an annual charge for the hire of a box, many of us would be willing to collect our own mail, at our own convenience.With internet access now available to 40 per cent of households (rising from virtually nothing in just five years or so), it can only be a matter of another five to 10 years before nearly every household is on-line. At that point, regular bills such as gas, electricity and telephone will not need to be physically sent to individual households. No one in their right mind now trusts the conventional postal system for documents of value.Sometimes we allow ourselves to be ruled by the mythical little old lady living alone in the back of beyond who must, according to the politicians, be the sole reason for maintaining an outdated 160-year-old system of communication. But the little old lady probably shouts even louder about the desire to collect her pension from the village sub-post office rather than have it paid into a bank account Fine. So why can’t she collect her letters from a mailbox from the sub-post office at the same time?Postman Pat, as a commercial proposition, is as unsustainable as the milkman or the coalman.

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