Today, the government officially confirmed to stock markets that Royal Mail will be privatised in the coming weeks. Estimates put the sale of the postal service at £3 billion when its shares hit trading floors in 4-6 weeks’ time. Labour have attacked the decision, saying Royal Mail is being ‘sold off on the cheap’. The government has said it will give 10% of the Royal Mail’s shares to its 150,000 postal workers, but the postal union CWU have also opposed the privatisation and are balloting members on strike action. Many predict postal strikes will take place from 10th October onwards.
Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary, says the government’s privatisation is ‘politically motivated’:
“Ministers are pushing ahead with this politically-motivated fire sale of Royal Mail to fill the hole left by George Osborne’s failed plan. The Government has not addressed the huge concerns which remain on the impact the Royal Mail sale will have on consumers, businesses and communities.”
In July, Chuka Umunna said that the government’s plan to privatise the Royal Mail was a travesty:
“This treasured national institution is being sold off on the cheap to get income quickly to a Treasury whose economic strategy has failed. We oppose the government’s privatisation of Royal Mail. Maintaining the Royal Mail in public ownership gives the taxpayer an ongoing direct interest of universal postal services in this country […] and it ensures the taxpayer gets the share in the upside of modernisation and the increased profits which Royal Mail delivers.”
Chuka Umunna also pointed to figures showing the Royal Mail’s profits have more than doubled to £403 million, which means the Royal Mail in public hands could have been self-funded in future and not dependent on government subsidies. The CWU’s deputy leader Dave Ward, agrees:
“I really do not understand what the Government are trying to achieve by this. If you think about the profits the Royal Mail are now making, there’s no need for it to be privatised. What privatisation will do is destroy the UK’s universal postal service. There’s no way private companies can maintain six-day-a-week deliveries to every single address in the UK.”