One should never underestimate the Labour government’s ability to kick itself in the b*ll*cks. Yesterday, the Business secretary, Lord Mandelson, accepted a controversial report which paves way for the complete privatisation of the Royal Mail.
The report’s (PDF) initial recommendations was for a part-privatisation of the service with a large chunk of it being sold to a commercial competitor (rumours suggest that Dutch company TNT could be the favoured bidder). But will it stop there? Faced with falling public revenues and other commitments, the entire Royal Mail, in the long term, could be broken up and sold off, whichever political party wins the next general election.
Of course there are some things wrong with the postal service at the moment, but is yet more painful restructuring the answer? Has anybody in government made any attempt to speak to the staff who will be affected by the changes? What about the future of the organisation’s large pension fund- who on earth is going to take it on? Will it lead to further increases in the price of stamps?
As usual, the government hasn’t thought this policy through. The last eleven years has seen such persistent change in the postal service through ministerial interference and tinkering, which as a result led to a drop in staff morale, and in turn has seen a major decline in the level of service to the public.
Lord Mandelson has jumped the gun with this policy. Many of those in the Labour party have already voiced their opposition (one MP quit his ministerial post in protest), and the unions working in the Royal Mail say they will fight these plans.
In the event of these plans going ahead, many fear that this could lead to the death of the postal service as we know it. Of course it has to change with the times… but does it have to be like this?