Journal Column – 21st December

The latest in a long line of attacks on Wales may now take the form of Royal Mail and our universal postal service. Ofcom, the newly appointed regulator of the industry, is currently conducting two reviews into postage pricing and user needs. It has already been suggested that one possible review outcome could see items of mail being delivered to a ‘village central point’ instead of individual homes.

Undoubtedly the increase in use in digital technologies such as e-mails, internet shopping and electronic bill payments have reduced demand on the postal service but the vital role the universal service plays in social cohesion and connecting communities cannot be underestimated.

For years Plaid has stood side by side with communities throughout Wales to keep our Post Offices open when faced with the former Labour government’s rationalistion proposals. Some communities unfortunately lost their services. Other communities such as Drylswyn and Cwmdu, which I visited two weeks ago, have come together and with hard work and community cooperation, have won the battle to retain the essential amenity.

Royal Mail scrapping its daily delivery would see very similar consequences to the rationalisation of the Post Office network. Communities would become isolated and its residents penalised. Rural communities which already suffer from poor broadband coverage and have been stripped of public transport and amenities would not be economically sustainable for existing businesses or attractive to ones wish to relocate.

The universal service has faced significant challenges from successive UK Governments. The postal workers who work so hard to deliver our mail have adapted every time their service ‘goal posts’ have been moved. But the UK Government must remember the service is not optional – it is essential. Neither should the UK Government underestimate the opposition there would be to such rationalisation proposals. It must reject any recommendation from the regulator which would see further isolation of our communities.

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