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Saturday 10 December 2011

The MP Postal Service

Like many people, I’ve just experienced one of those moments (twice in the same week) when Royal Mail comes, doesn’t ring the doorbell (once, let along twice), and doesn’t leave a red delivery card.  They come, and then go, for no other reason than to suggest the illusion of a postal delivery service which used to be a fabric of our daily life.

Think about it. Royal Mail has just been paid to drive / cycle around London on a Saturday morning in order NOT to deliver the items they were carrying, but to take them back to the depot and wait until the person meant to receive them has worked out that they came but didn’t make it through the letter box.  It is Royal Mail who was not there to deliver, rather than I who was not there to receive.  Of course, it's true, I was unlucky. Some people actually get the red delivery card posted through their box, even if no attempt was made to deliver the actual parcel attached to it .  (And since starting this blog, someone just came, 5 hours later from the first attempt, to post a failed delivery card - again, with no attempt to knock a door or ring a bell. That's two journeys, with the parcel, to deliver one piece of paper!)

This is a farce. Isn’t it time we were honest about the postal system, and find a better way to provide  a service?  So Royal Mail is not being asked to carry around parcels with no real intent to deliver? 

In Germany, they have a system where you can have your parcel sent to a ‘packing station’ so you can pick it up yourself in your own time 24/7with a special code number emailed to you.   This at least takes out the uncertainty of relying on Royal Mail to post a delivery card through the letterbox to tell you to pick up the item they couldn’t be bothered to deliver to you.  It’s easy and transparent.

If that’s too expensive for us to create in the UK, why not have a postal choice, where we can ask for items to be sent direct to the local delivery office, without bothering the Royal Mail to fail to deliver them?  Even if we don’t have the sophistication of a proper ‘packing station’ you can access anytime, at least we could find out exactly when our item had arrived and have an automatic tracking code to go and pick it up. In some cases, this would be more preferable to guarantee we received our post.  Meanwhile, the Royal Mail service could focus on actually delivering the mail it has been paid to, and re-train its staff to ring doorbells, knock on doors, and use letter boxes.

Maybe in a Big Society like way, a local community could volunteer together for its own post person to go and pick up items at the weekend and deliver them as part of a ‘Postman Pat’ service, where you get your mail and a conversation at the same time.  Or a National Citizenship Postal Service. David Cameron – on yer bike!  Hold on a minute…The MP Postal Service could be just the trick to demonstrate Big Society in action, and give politicians a useful way to reconnect with their electorate. After all, they are pretty good at posting leaflets and knocking on doors during election time, so they have already perfected the talents required by the Royal Mail. Next time a politician who has lost their seat wonders what to do with their future career, we’ll know what to suggest.

As our society becomes more sophisticated, we seem to be destroying some of the little things in life that make a difference.   If Royal Mail can’t deliver a basic postal service, let alone the more human one it once did, then it’s time it abdicated and gave the crown to someone else.  I think my delivery card, when it does finally come, would look much better with a Westminster portcullis at the top.

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