Christmas cards and hospital appointments stuck in post delays
New routes blamed for health and legal appointment post loss
Friday, 17th December 2021 — By Harry Taylor
CHRISTMAS cards and presents – and hospital appointments – are facing weeks of delays in the post after changes at a delivery office.
A Bermuda Triangle of mail can be drawn around streets in West Hampstead and Kilburn where residents say they can go days without getting mail through the letterbox.
Royal Mail said it is now providing “targeted support” after letters about medical appointments, court hearings and Covid tests started arriving weeks after they normally would. It now faces questions over whether its legal universal service obligation (USO) of daily deliveries has been broken.
Problems began in September in the NW6 area, including South Hampstead, when delivery routes were changed in the Kilburn delivery office.
Community group Life in Kilburn has launched a petition demanding that services be restored. And Royal Mail depot chiefs confirmed to its organiser Agnes Peyser that seven postal workers have resigned since the changes.
Temporary staff were brought in to shore up the gap, but they then left. Some deliveries are now being made less than once a week, residents said, and last week it is believed that two post bags full of mail were found dumped in the street in Buckley Road.
Ms Peyser said: “We get a delivery, if we’re lucky, once a week. Last week I didn’t get anything for 12 days and then I get 15-16 letters. I complained and suddenly we got deliveries again for Thursday, Friday, Saturday last week, and one of them had the date November 25 on.”
She added: “It seems the new routes are too much work for the staff, and that’s why they left and the temporary workers didn’t last. They’re too long for them to cope.”
Ms Peyser has heard cases of people receiving letters notifying medical appointments after their scheduled date. One man who didn’t get his summons for jury service in time was fined for not showing up. The fine was later rescinded.
Ms Peyser also fears for the vulnerable: “Obviously you have people getting Christmas cards at the moment, or not, and there’s people, particularly elderly people, and it’s a key way for them to avoid loneliness – and they aren’t arriving either.”
Community campaigner Janet Grauberg – a former Lib Dem councillor and ex-Town Hall finance chief – said: “From what I’ve heard, it’s causing a lot of anxiety, because you don’t know what you haven’t received.
“There are people waiting for information about hospital appointments, for example, or people needing documents to be posted to them. And there’s no information on when it might improve.”
Deliveries were affected this year during the “pingdemic” after workers were being told to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who had Covid. There are concerns that deliveries might be affected further across the borough as Omicron cases are predicted to rise in the next few weeks.
The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents posties, said it is not commenting on specific cases due to the volume of delays taking place nationally.
A spokesperson said: “Our members have been under tremendous pressure – not just now, but since the start of the pandemic.
“Despite this, they have done an incredible job in keeping the country connected. We ask the public to recognise the tremendous job CWU members are doing in frustrating and difficult circumstances.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “The vast majority of mail is delivered safely and on time. We aim to deliver to all addresses we have mail for, six days a week. In our Kilburn delivery office, we have experienced higher than usual levels of sick absence along with resourcing issues. We apologise to any customers who may have experienced delays to their mail.”
They added: “We are providing targeted support to the local offices affected by these issues to address their challenges and restore our service to the high standard our customers would normally receive.”