Inconsistent postal service continues to frustrate

Residents of Caterham and its surrounding areas are growing increasingly exasperated with the inconsistent Royal Mail service they have been experiencing for the past year. 

Peter, from Harestone Hill, contacted the Tandridge Independent after recently going more than a fortnight without receiving post:

“Before August it was arriving every four days or so, but we’ve just had 18 days in between deliveries. Medical appointment letters and bank correspondence are only sent through the Royal Mail, and it can make life difficult when they don’t arrive.”

Confirmation of a subscription Peter bought as a wedding present for his son and daughter-in-law never arrived; a replacement took four weeks to reach his letterbox. He says that Royal Mail are not fulfilling their statutory obligations:

“They are meant to deliver six days a week but they are certainly not hitting that target in many areas.”

Peter got in touch with local councillor Alun Jones, who has been trying to get answers for his residents.

“When the issues first became apparent,” says Alun, “Caterham sorting office management advised that the issues were due to Covid-related issues and then more recently, industrial action. The last strikes were in December, and the industrial dispute was resolved by July this year, but residents continue to suffer with their mail.

Some people are receiving a daily service, but others get nothing. It appears to be due to the poor management of the Caterham sorting office. The Royal Mail website says where there are localised shortages, they will rotate deliveries to minimise the impact to individual customers.  This is not the case locally, despite recommendations to the office to do so.”

Local Facebook groups have many posts about postal problems. While some seem to be receiving an acceptable service – ‘We’ve only had problems when our postie is off sick. Otherwise it’s very good’ – the majority are not:

‘Our postman isn’t covered if he goes on holidays – post can remain undelivered for up to three weeks’; ‘I’m in the valley and I get a batch every couple of weeks’; ‘Got a birthday card yesterday, only a month late!’; ‘Totally at random (deliveries) – sometimes weekly, sometimes six weekly’; ‘The situation for some roads is ridiculous, batch-delivery every two weeks, if that!’

A Bletchingley resident contacted us to say they’ve had problems there: “I’ve changed my bills and correspondence to email, as letters were arriving late and causing problems.”

MP for East Surrey Claire Coutinho has repeatedly raised this with Royal Mail since last autumn:

“I am as frustrated as residents with Royal Mail’s lack of progress in improving delivery services. 

The underlying cause seems to be a lack of staff. I was promised in their latest letter that the hiring process for new postal workers was well underway. I have chased them yet again for an update.

If anyone is having problems with deliveries, please email me, as this is useful for strengthening my case with Royal Mail’s leadership.”

Cllr Jones continues:

“Despite complaints, the service is still poor. The only way to get this resolved is for as many people as possible to escalate complaints to the most senior people so they know what a shambles the Caterham office management can be.

Report missing deliveries by calling 0345 7440740 with the date of your last delivery and anything missing specifically. If that doesn’t work, call again and ask for your complaint to be escalated (include references to previous complaints). A customer service representative will call you back and talk through your issue. The final option is to refer your complaint to the Postal Review Panel, whose details are on the Royal Mail website.”

In June, Citizens Advice research found almost one in three people had endured postal delays in the last month, with 7.3m ‘experiencing knock-on effects such as missing health appointments, fines or bills’. 

A Royal Mail spokesman told us: 

“We are sorry to residents who have experienced delays. Improving our quality of service is our top priority and we are committed to restoring service levels to where our customers expect them to be.

While on occasion there are delays, mail is being delivered daily throughout the area. When a person has mail to be delivered, and does not receive it on the day they expect, we will always try to prioritise them the following day.

We have plans in place to continue driving our service forward and encourage anyone who has concerns about their mail to get in touch.”

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