The residents of at least two Cambridgeshire villages say they could have lost thousands of letters after their deliveries mysteriously stopped for almost three weeks. They have been left “hugely frustrated” and say Royal Mail has indicated to them that any missing items will never be delivered and should now be considered lost.
At the start of March, people living in Great and Little Eversden – and possibly two other nearby villages – only a few miles from Cambridge, noticed their post had stopped arriving.
When they asked Royal Mail for an explanation, they were originally told there were no problems. Six weeks on, they claim the company has, in a series of emails to affected villagers, partly revealed what happened but is refusing to investigate.
It seems that after a reorganisation of rounds out of the Cambridge depot, the reliable postwoman who had served their area for years was moved to a new round. Other staff took over, and at that point the deliveries all but dried up.
The company has apparently told villagers that an undisclosed amount of post was discovered in a Royal Mail van after an employee had “withheld mail from delivery”, and that this member of staff had been dismissed. It also said: “Any items posted that have not reached you, we would have to assume have not made it to the Cambridge unit and have been mislaid in the network.”
The South Cambridgeshire MP, Anthony Browne, has written to the company asking for a full investigation after receiving “a disappointing response”– but to no avail.
“All the way through this, Royal Mail has been deliberately opaque,” said Susan Tacq, a retired academic, who is one of those trying to find out what has happened to their missing post.
“We had one letter delivered to our home over the three-week period but have been told by the company that all our mail has been delivered. Across the village, bank statements, credit card bills, birthday cards and letters that we don’t know about have all seemingly disappeared into thin air.”
She says one villager had a parking ticket notification that failed to arrive and had to pay the full £90 fine as a result. Another’s mammogram test results didn’t arrive, while a third villager’s new passport failed to turn up. Online orders have gone missing for items such as contact lenses, leaving the community very frustrated.
“The Royal Mail CEO’s office has told us that any items posted that have not reached us must have been mislaid in the network. This is simply not credible. It might feasibly explain the loss of a few items of post. The loss of nearly three weeks’ mail to about 330 households, thousands of items, cannot all have been ‘mislaid in the network’. If they were, then Royal Mail is in even worse straits than this episode suggests. The company has said it won’t investigate – but why not?” she asks.
The villagers are the latest community to complain that their post has stopped, although in most cases the backlog is eventually delivered.
Residents in more than 120 postal districts across the country reported poor service over the Christmas and new year period.
Meanwhile, Royal Mail received more than 1m complaints from householders last year, the highest level for a decade.
Only a few days ago it increased the price of a first-class stamp by 10p to 95p.
Royal Mail sent Guardian Money a statement that did not appear to address some of the aspects of this curious saga, and which – contrary to what the villagers are saying – seemed to suggest that the matter had all been resolved.
It said: “On this occasion a route revision in late February caused some delays to deliveries in the villages of Eversden, Harlton and Haslingfield. We are very sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused to our customers and have now resolved the issues that caused these delays, and have delivered any mail that was outstanding from the period in question. We have restored our service locally to its normal high standard. Anyone who has concerns over the delivery of their mail should contact the Royal Mail customer service team on 03457 740 740 or via the Royal Mail website www.royalmail.com.”