Royal Mail's service delivery failures

Getting letters delivered by Royal Mail seems to be nearly impossible for my constituents judging by the message they are sending me, so I should hardly be surprised that the company has not yet replied to the email I sent them on the 2 June about their service standards. 

To compound things even more, a large part of my message to Royal Mail (copied below) re-asked questions about staffing, capacity and pressures the company face, which they failed to address in a reply to a message I sent them back in March. 

A pattern of non-answers and inaccuracies on Royal Mail’s is quite clear to see.  

Yet my constituents are experiencing very real problems with post deliveries, causing them to miss hospital appointments because letters do not turn up in time, as well as the delays compounding grief and heartache. This was the case for the mother who received beautiful letters meant for her adult son. He never got to see them because they arrived after he had died. A bundle of post my constituent received after her son’s death also contained the order of service for the funeral which had taken place weeks before. 

Furthermore, with reports about a significant increase in postal votes being delivered late in the recent local council elections in May, and therefore not being counted, post delays have the potential to impact on our democratic processes.  

The lack of courtesy shown by Royal Mail by their non-response and silence on this serious issue speaks volumes. Yet alarmingly, this attitude appears to be something that runs deep at Royal Mail, with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee calling Royal Mail’s Chief Executive, Simon Thompson, back to a parliamentary meeting because of concerns raised about inaccuracies in his earlier testimony.  

Some of the evidence discussed at the recent Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee meeting included examples of bar charts being displayed in delivery offices to compare the 'stand still' time gathered via the tracking devices (postal delivery assistants PDAs) used. Whilst the use of tracking devices is something discussed with CWU, using data in this way breaches any agreement in place over the use of tracking technology.  

Furthermore, there have been multiple posters displayed in some delivery offices stating that it's OK to deliver letters the next day and that postal workers need to "focus on tracked and special delivery items". 

And it’s at senior management level where the problems appear to lie, with reports of postal workers under pressure to prioritise parcels over letters, and with questions being raised about the “toxic” working environment.  

With Ofcom currently investigating Royal Mail’s failure to meet its delivery targets in 2022/23 it’s vital that regulators take action.  

In Brighton Royal Mail was way off its delivery targets, which will come as no surprise to many of my constituents. In quarter three last year first class stamped deliveries fell to just 44.1% of its 93% target.  

I opposed the privatisation of Royal Mail, a proposal mooted around by Gordon Brown in the dying days of the previous Labour Government, which was pursued and voted through by the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition that followed. With Vince Cable MP boldly stating at the time

“The best way of reassuring the public is to demolish some of the myths. The fact is that the universal service obligation was clearly underwritten by Parliament; it is embedded in legislation and cannot be removed.” 

With the company now run for profit and for the benefit of shareholders, Royal Mail is far from the six-day-a-week universal postal service the Government promised when they chose to privatise it.  

Whilst it’s good that Ofcom are investigating the shocking state of Royal Mail, it’s not enough. The core justification of the then Government’s privatisation plans was that the universal service obligation would be protected. With that promise broken, there needs to be some accountability. Back in 2014 Vince Cable was recalled to Parliament after a National Audit Office report found that the sale of Royal Mail cost the taxpayer £750 million. The whole thing stinks. 

Since privatisation, Royal Mail’s track record on affordability, quality and the fair treatment of workers has been badly undermined. For this reason, I added my name to this Early Day Motion, which condemned Royal Mail’s continued attack on jobs while shareholders receive £311 million in rewards. I also asked this parliamentary question challenging the proposal to reduce Royal Mail staff by 10,000, as well as this question about the Royal Mail Group’s dividends. And I fully supported the 100,000 Royal Mail postal workers who engaged in strike action to protest low pay and poor working conditions, as you can see by my support for this Early Day Motion

Copied below are some of the problems constituents have raised with me in recent weeks. 

With Royal Mail management remaining tight-lipped on the scale of the problems with local deliveries in Brighton and Hove, I will be highlighting my ongoing concerns to Ministers, and with Ofcom.  


Examples of delivery delay impact


26 April – “I have had no letters delivered to my house in xxx, since 17 April - parcels are delivered but not letters. I know there is mail I should have received by now.  Nor have I seen anyone delivering mail in the street. Consequently, we are unable to vote in the upcoming local elections”  

15 May – “I’m writing because the Royal Mail in Brighton seems to have stopped working. I’ve been waiting over a week for several tracked items that should have taken 24 hours. Other post has simply not arrived. I went to North Road on Saturday to the main office to find a huge queue of people with same problem. I’m waiting for various medicines so am having to try and buy them again and find a courier service. I’ve written a complaint but no one gets back.  The woman in the office said everything was late but couldn’t say when any of it would arrive. She did find 2 packages I ordered over a month ago that I’d given up on. This situation is more than frustrating I thought I would write to you about it”  

16 May – “We are now in our third week of having no Royal Mail post whatever. Nothing. Friends in xxx are in the same position. I’ve got parcels that tracking shows have been stuck at Gatwick for 2 weeks or more. I’m waiting on an NHS hospital appointment for my 6 year old daughter, and am in the middle of selling my house and divorcing my husband. I’ve got a fair bit of post tied up somewhere in the system. If I were waiting for payment by post or for exam results, say, it would be even worse. I have called royal mails customer helpline twice. The first time they raised a case and promptly closed it, having never got back to me (and still no post).  

“The second time the person I spoke to told me that they would raise a case at our local sorting office but if the problem was ‘upstream’ at the distribution hub there was nothing they could do, they advised me services there were contracted out and the Royal Mail customer service team could not raise an enquiry with them. I was advised the only way to get anyone to look into it would be to claim a refund for any parcels stuck, then the sellers would apply to Royal Mail for compensation which in turn would trigger an investigation.”  

19 May – “For more than three months there has rarely been more than one delivery a week and this new low clearly cannot be blamed on the dispute with CWU”  

22 May – “I have today received a batch of ten letters. Several were posted two weeks ago and one three weeks ago. One of these is from the Sussex Eye Hospital confirming an appointment for surgery”  

27 May - "we are having a lot of trouble getting our post delivered. During a 4 week period recently we only had 2 deliveries. I phoned the Royal Mail and was told our regular postman was off sick and there was no one to cover his round. Poor man is back this week and we had a post on Wednesday but he looked exhausted. If someone sends me a letter with a first class stamp on it they expect me to get it in a couple of days not 4 weeks. Surely they should have enough staff to cover sicknesses and holidays." 

12 June – “My son, (xxx line redacted xxx) who resided at the above address with me died after a short illness on 25 April 2023. I have only received two mail deliveries since that time in copious bundles. This has been particularly distressing at a heartbreaking time for a number of reasons:  

“The first bundle which arrived on my birthday, contained beautiful letters to my son, posted weeks before which he never got to see;  

“The second bundle, arriving today 12 June, contained multiple important official documentation which as the next of kin I must deal with now all in one go; it also contained the order of service of my son's funeral on the 25 May posted by the funeral directors weeks ago.  

“Today’s bundle was handed to me by a postal worker who apologised. I asked why this was happening and he said that there was no-one to make deliveries. How is that possible? A broken system indeed.”  

14 June – “We are waiting to receive a new Bank Card which seems to be stuck in the post and is making life very difficult at the moment. We have lodged a complaint on their website and by phone but not received any answers to the problem.” 

28 June – “I am currently waiting for birthday cards for my daughter who turned 10 on Monday. Fortunately her aunt did not put money in the post. I hope her great aunts did the same. 

“It took more than a month to receive my replacement debit card. The bank sent it in May and it arrived two weeks ago when our last post turned up.” 


From: Brighton Office <>
Sent: 02 June 2023 12:57
To: Michael Hogg; David Gold
Subject: Re: Post delivery delays in Brighton and Hove  


Dear both, 


Thank you for your letter dated 24 April in response to the email I sent on the 27 March. However, the response I received fails to answer the direct questions I asked, so I would be grateful if you would please confirm the following: 


 - the current number of Royal Mail staff in Brighton and Hove  

 - the current number of vacancies  

 - current problems and issues impacting on Royal Mail's ability to meet the universal service agreement  

 - whether data from PDAs has been used in any discipline processes involving postal workers in Brighton and Hove  

 - whether there has been any pressure on postal workers, or explicit suggestion, from Royal Mail management in Brighton and Hove, at any level, that they focus on tracked and special delivery items  

 - whether there are delivery targets in Brighton and Hove, and what these are  


In your reply, you note that "We regularly remind colleagues that the delivery, collection and processing of letters and parcels should be treated with equal importance". This makes me question why such an obvious reminder would need to be regularly communicated, unless there has been alternative messaging and a culture of parcel prioritisation at some previous point. Please would you clarify - eg has there been any historic communication from management to staff that might suggest letter and parcels shouldn’t be given equal priority, or whether there have there been targets or incentives for parcel deliveries at any point. I'm keen to properly understand any underlying reasons for staff needing to be regularly reminded of something that I’d have thought was an automatic assumption, so your help breaking this down for me would be appreciated.  


From contact I've had with postal workers on the ground, there has been pressure to prioritise parcels from senior management, this is echoed in concerns being raised nationally.  


With regard to the use of PDAs, whilst I am aware that there is some agreement with CWU about their use, has Royal Mail used PDAs in a way which goes outside of this agreement? Please would you also clarify the exceptional circumstances, and whether these have been applied in any cases in Brighton and Hove.  


In my March email I raised specific questions for specific reasons, and I would appreciate it if you would answer these questions directly. If there is any reason for Royal Mail believing it cannot answer any of the direct questions I have asked, please would you provide explanations for this in your reply, rather than simply not addressing them.  


I’d be very grateful if you would please endeavour to promptly answer the questions from my 27 March email and the further points above. I've copied below several comments that separate constituents have raised with me in recent weeks. Most people experiencing problems with Royal Mail don't write to their MP, so the volume of correspondence I'm getting at the moment about postal deliveries suggests that something is fundamentally wrong. 


I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.  


Best wishes, 




Caroline Lucas MP

Brighton Pavilion




Constituency Office

Werks Central

15-17 Middle Street

Brighton BN1 1AL

Tel: 01273 201130


Twitter: @carolinelucas 

Instagram: @carolinelucasbrighton 


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