Livewire - April 6, 2011

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By retired postmistress Diane Jenkinson

The charge of the post brigade, they should call it. Yet another nail has been hammered into the coffin of our Royal Mail service.

I used to run my own post office in a small Yorkshire village until 15 years ago when I retired to the Fylde coast – and I’ve watched and wept at the steady decline in services since.

A post office was once at the heart of a community.

The good ones still do their best, usually by diversifying, like my post office which is like a corner shop selling all sorts.

But I miss the days when you could go to the post office for stamps, your pension, a TV licence savings card and sweeties, as well as stationery and other items.

I now use a card to get my pension and hope the day never comes when we don’t enjoy the whole camaraderie of the post office queue for our money and other things.

Now we see postal charges have risen. Not just risen but absolutely shot up by five pence for a first class stamp, the biggest increase since 1968 when I still had my business. Yet the service is decidedly second rate, through no fault of our posties, but successive policies of paring back to the point of almost stagnating growth. Our postal service was once the envy of the world.

I barely see my postman today. Rounds have reduced but so has mail, I suspect, as so few of us take the trouble to write to one another any more.

I am a so called silver surfer myself but the age of email has replaced good old fashioned letter writing for many. I no longer get letters from my grown up daughters, or even a thank you card from my grandchildren when they get presents on their birthdays or at Christmas, but I get emails, that’s if they remember to send them. I even get email cards for my own birthday and Christmas. I had my first e-card for Mother’s Day ever this year and I HATED it because you can’t stick it on your dresser and look at it.

When I told my daughter this she said, ‘oh, mum, just print it out and put it up’, but it’s not the same, just a horrible flimsy thing of no inherent worth, other than the thought that might have gone into the choice online.

Now I learn that we can use some “cloud based” system which allows customers to upload and send letters securely online, prices from 8p, through some remote iSecurePost server with no paper, printing or postage, to be viewed or printed off at the other end.

Cloud-based system? It’s beyond me. But I forecast rain - right on the parade of what’s left of our Royal Mail service. Haven’t we lost enough?