By Chuka Umunna MP
Brixton is a place with residents from all over the globe and therefore it is particularly important for people locally that they are able to rely on the postal service to help keep them connected. The universal service obligation means that the Royal Mail will deliver a letter posted from Brixton to anywhere else in the country, and working with the Post Office it helps enable people to keep in touch with others all around the world.
Today I visited the Sherriff Centre, a renovated church in West Hampstead which, uniquely, is home to a charity run Post Office. Tomorrow I will be visiting one of our own Post Offices here on Brixton Hill.
All of us who use our local Post Offices in and around the Brixton area (and throughout my constituency) appreciate just how important their services are for local people, particularly those who are not able to access Government provided services online. Increasingly the Post Office is also providing a range of important financial services products to people at affordable prices.
People often ask me what we would do – if elected into Government next year – to safeguard our local post offices? Essential to the future of the Post Office is the all important agreement it has with the Royal Mail to provide Royal Mail products and services (stamps, parcels, etc) through Post Offices – that agreement is due to expire in 2022. If Labour is elected at the General Election next year, I have been clear that we would prioritise securing the future of our Post Office network and, with that in mind, work to ensure that Royal Mail Services continue to be provided through Post Offices far into the future.
And then there is the Royal Mail itself whose posties deliver letters to addresses in every part of Lambeth and beyond. I opposed the privatisation of the Royal Mail last year in part because of my concern that the agreement the Post Office should be safeguarded, but also because I did not feel that it was the right thing for our area. I have also been highly critical of the way the Government subsequently handled the sale of Royal Mail and short changed the taxpayer to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in the process. Now that the privatisation has happened, what will we do with regard to local Royal Mail services?
Our immediate priority on entering office would be to safeguard the services consumers and businesses get from a privatised Royal Mail. Today I had a complete memory blank when asked in West Hampstead what the price was of a first class stamp – so I went and reminded myself by looking at stamp prices today and how they have changed since 2010. In 2010 the cost of a first class stamp was 41p and second class stamp was 32p; today the price of a first class stamp has rocketed to 62p and a second class has soared to 53p. So, if elected, we will ensure there is an appropriate degree of price control over Royal Mail given the stamp price hikes we have seen over these last few years.
We will also seek to ensure that Royal Mail is not subject to unfair competition by other postal service operators. They are currently not subject to the same high performance and service quality standards as the Royal Mail which means there is not a level playing field in terms of competition. We will look to address this.
Through doing all these things I hope that we can secure the future of postal services for Brixton Blog readers and the rest of my constituency. It’s as essential as ever that we secure the future of these vital services – a global centre like Brixton deserves nothing less!
Chuka Umunna is MP for Streatham which covers Streatham and parts of Clapham, Balham, Tulse Hill and Brixton.