Royal Mail sell-off shows Cameron 'cannot be trusted with countryside'
Huw Irranca-Davies, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, says the Royal Mail sell-off shows how out of touch the Government is with rural communities.
The Government’s proposed sell-off of Royal Mail shows how out of touch David Cameron’s government is with rural communities.
Only last month Cameron attended the North Devon Show and attempted to shore up the Conservative party’s beleaguered rural credentials. Yet this fire-sale shows again that he cannot be trusted with the countryside.
The Conservatives say the economy is doing well, but for many people in rural areas things are still getting harder. Prices are rising faster than wages, heating costs are up, food costs are up and rural communities face further reductions in many essential services.
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Privatising postal services will only hit them harder.
Royal Mail is vital to rural communities for three key reasons: the six-day-a-week service it provides, the Universal Service Obligation (USO), and the historic link between the Royal Mail and the Post Office.
The sale threatens these long-standing principles; and due to the higher average costs of providing Royal Mail services in rural areas, the impending privatisation will place question mark over its willingness to maintain what can be loss-making services.
And it is not just Labour making these points: the National Federation of SubPostmasters, National Pensioners Convention and postal workers have all urged the government to think again.
Labour opposed full privatisation when it was proposed early in this parliament because of its potential consequences for rural communities and the belief that maintaining public ownership gives the taxpayer an ongoing interest in maintaining a universal service.
Already there is evidence of those living in rural or remote areas experiencing difficulty with private carriers.
Citizens Advice Scotland found more than eight out of ten people surveyed in remote parts of Scotland had been refused delivery altogether by retailers using a carrier other than Royal Mail.
Royal Mail’s commitment to the USO protects rural communities; ensuring goods are delivered for the same price across the country, preventing those in rural areas from being charged a costly higher premium.
The rural economy is already experiencing a lack of growth because of the Government’s policies.
The Rural Economy Index published by the Country Land and Business Association this year commented that the rural economy was on “the brink of further recession”.
Given that many small businesses in rural areas rely on the regular parcel service that Royal Mail guarantees, there are well-founded concerns about what the sale could mean for the rural businesses.
The Government is putting the interests of a privileged few before communities in rural areas that rely on Royal Mail.
Labour will continue to oppose this “fire sale” and stand up for rural communities.