Dulwich and Peckham residents have suffered with months of delayed deliveries, missing parcels and lost NHS correspondence as COVID-19 further disrupted Royal Mail’s beleaguered SE22 service.
The problems have worsened to such an extent that Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes has publicly taken Royal Mail to task over the continuing poor service, labelling it nothing short of a ‘disaster’.
She says there has been a marked decline in service since March, with reports of missing post for up to weeks at a time across SE22; East Dulwich, Dulwich Village and parts of Peckham Rye.
Hayes told the News constituents had contacted her over missing NHS letters, essential business correspondence, bank and credit card statements, and awol supplies including medicines and contact lenses – all during the worst months of the pandemic.
She said the controversial closure of Silvestester Road’s sorting office in 2017, combined with staff shortages and increased demand, had left Royal Mail struggling to provide even a basic level of service.
Hayes and other councillors had warned shutting down Silvester Road, and transferring to Peckham, would create delays and cramped working conditions for staff.
The seven million sell-off was widely attributed to huge delays and queues outside the Peckham office in the run up to Christmas in 2018 – and is a regular bone of contention for residents on the East Dulwich forum.
Now, any improvements over the last year appear to have evaporated.
According to Royal Mail’s own data – obtained by Hayes’ team – the delivery office now can only process 3,000 letters per hour compared with 10,000 during normal times due to social distancing.
Only 2,000 large items can now be processed an hour, compared with 6,000 before COVID-19.
Hayes says staff sickness and the added demands of the pandemic – including an increase in home working and home deliveries – are stretching staff.
Online sales reached a record high during the pandemic, with Royal Mail and other delivery services reporting huge rises in parcel deliveries across the country.
After visiting the office this week, Hayes said: “Royal Mail must urgently get a grip on the shocking service in SE22.
“Despite the hard work of our posties to deliver as much as possible, they are hamstrung by the lack of space and the long distances to travel to the further reaches of SE22.
“The Silvester Road delivery office was not fit for purpose, but it is unacceptable that Royal Mail did not provide a replacement facility in the SE22 area.”
“Many residents are still working from home or voluntarily shielding, and reliant on daily deliveries.
“As we appear to be heading into a second wave of the coronavirus, Royal Mail must take urgent action to provide staff with the resources they need and ensure normal service resumes as soon as possible.”
Responding to the claims, Royal Mail said it was working hard to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, but that mail was still being processed ‘as normal’ in the Peckham delivering office.
“From the start of this crisis, we always said that despite our best endeavours, it is possible that some areas of the country may experience a reduction in service levels due to Coronavirus-related absences and necessary social distancing measures at their local mail centre or delivery office,” a spokesperson told the News.
“We have been working hard to deliver the most comprehensive service we can to all our customers in challenging circumstances throughout this period.
“We have introduced a number of social distancing measures to our operation to offer further protection for our colleagues and our customers.
“This includes launching contact free delivery, ensuring colleagues are two metres apart at all times and having one person in a van.
“We are proud of all our colleagues across the UK for helping to keep the nation connected in such challenging circumstances.
“We always endeavour to keep our customers as informed as we can of any changes to our services.
“We have a dedicated section on our website https://www.royalmail.com/coronavirus.
“We thank customers for their patience during this difficult time”.