Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Post

I shall be away for a few days from today, so this is the last post for a little while. And, perhaps aptly, it is about the Royal Mail.

I have to say first that I cordially loathe the Royal Mail. Deliveries in my area have one of the highest loss rates in the country, and they are among the least timely. Post offices in central London are almost always horribly crowded, Christmas or not. As an organisation, at least as I experience it, the Royal Mail is broken.

However I don't think the answer is to part privatise it or shut it down. And I recognise that Post Offices outside London often offer services that are important to communities, services that it is hard to put a profit or loss figure on, but which we would miss if they were gone. The arguments in favour of privatisation too often measure what is easy to measure and ignore everything else. (Jackie Ashley makes a version of this argument in the Guardian here.) And if we can spare tens of billions for the systemically important banking system in the UK, surely we can spare a billion or two for the socially important postal system. Let's admit that we need the Royal Mail and see what good we can do with it. (Jon Crudas has an idea here.) But above all let's not use biased analysis based on discredited economics to destroy a national institution that is useful and valuable and could be quite a lot better.

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