Let's take Royal Mail into public hands - make your voice heard now

When Royal Mail was privatised in 2013, the public was promised that privatisation would make the service more sustainable for the future.

After a decade of privatisation, Royal Mail is in crisis. Despite making huge profits in 2021, the company has made huge losses in the last few years.

Now the regulator, Ofcom, wants to water down Royal Mail's "universal service obligation", which is the company's mandate to deliver letters to every house in Britain, at the same price and within a set time.

But first, Ofcom is asking for the public's views on this plan.

This is a big opportunity for you to demand that Royal Mail be taken back into public ownership. 

In the past 2 years, We Own It supporters have helped force government U-turns on Channel 4 sell-off and the closure of our railway ticket offices by responding to public consultations in huge numbers. We know this makes a big difference.

The consultation closes at 5pm on Wednesday 3rd April. You can read more about the consultation on Ofcom's website HERE.

Can you take 5 minutes or less to respond to the public consultation by following these quick steps?

Respond to the consultation in 6 simple steps:

1. Start a new email

2. Insert Ofcom's consultation email address as the recipient (this is the email address your response is going to) - futurepostaluso@ofcom.org.uk

3. Insert the email subject (this helps them know immediately what your email is about) - "The future of the universal postal service"

4. Copy and paste this short form to the top of your email body and fill it out (this helps Ofcom know this submission is coming from a real person):

Full name:

Contact phone number:

Representing: Self

Email address:

5. Copy and paste the proposed consultation response below (copy and paste both the questions and proposed answers) into the body of your email - you may choose to answer those questions in your own words if you want to

6. Click "send" to submit your consultation response

Proposed consultation response:

The consultation has 10 questions, but only the two below are relevant to our demand for Royal Mail to be taken into public ownership. You may choose to use your own words in responding to these questions in your email to Ofcom. 

8. Do you agree with our analysis of the different options available to change the USO and the impact of those changes on residential (including vulnerable) users, SMEs and bulk mail users? If not, please explain why and set out any option(s) which we have not considered.

Answer: NO

Royal Mail was sold off on the cheap in 2013. The National Audit Office found the government could have received at least £750 million more for the company than it got.

The sell-off of Royal Mail came after the 2010 government-commissioned Hooper Review identified the decline in letters, as undermining the sustainability of the service. Privatisation and private investment were supposed to fix these issues.

Ofcom now identifies those same issues as justifications for changing the universal service obligation (Royal Mail's obligation to deliver letters to every house in Britain, at a set price, within a set time). 

This proposal to change the universal service obligation is an admission that privatisation has failed to deliver.

We Own It and New Economic Foundation analysis shows that by 2025, Royal Mail will be worse off in private hands than it would have been if it had remained in public ownership. Perhaps it is time to rule out the continued privatisation of the service as an option.

In 2021, Royal Mail shareholders received £400 million in dividends. And despite losses in 2023, Royal Mail’s parent company, IDS, promised shareholders a dividend. These dividend payments have taken place while users have faced stamp price rises. First Class stamp prices went up by 47% in the 18 months to September 2023.

Cutting the service will hurt ordinary people even more, especially people in remote and rural parts of the UK's nations, and businesses that depend on Royal Mail's letter deliveries.

Why should the public be asked to bear the burden of fixing Royal Mail now by accepting a reduction in the service they get, after a decade of private shareholders extracting profits from the company?

If Royal Mail’s current private owners can no longer manage the service, taking the company back into public ownership must be an option.

9. Which option(s) do you consider would be most appropriate to address the challenges we have identified, while also ensuring that users’ needs are adequately met?

Ofcom has offered two options for public discussion: (1) allow Royal Mail to take longer to deliver letters, or reduce the number of days on which they deliver letters. 

We choose a third option: If the private shareholders cannot continue to deliver a full service, instead of cutting services, the government should take the company back into public ownership.

According to We Own It’s latest polling, 68% of the public support this third option.

In its current form, cutting services by watering down the universal service obligation will only serve to increase private shareholders' profits from Royal Mail, not improve the quality of services our communities receive. 

We recognise that with fewer letters being sent, Royal Mail must change how it provides the service in order to be sustainable. But changing the universal service obligation is not an option, because families and businesses across Britain depend on letters being reliably delivered six days a week.

Any changes to how the company does business must be done in the context of putting the public good before private shareholder profits. And that cannot be achieved under privatisation.

Taking Royal Mail into public ownership would save the service £171 million a year, which can be reinvested into improving the service for users, including expanding postal banking.

Before being sold off, Royal Mail turned a profit and had high levels of customer satisfaction. It is time to return to a Royal Mail that works for people, not profit. And that means taking it into public ownership.