Royal Mail warned over junk mail

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Abolishing the limit on junk mail deliveries to people's homes will damage the environment and cost council tax payers more, the Royal Mail was warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that a deal struck by the Royal Mail to lift the three-items-per-week limit of unaddressed mailings will lead to an increase in unwanted deliveries.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Chairman of the LGA, has written to Adam Crozier, Royal Mail chief executive, expressing "grave concerns" for the council tax payer and the environment.

"I am concerned that the expansion in 'junk mail' will lead to an increase in the amount of paper that is either thrown into landfill or has to be collected in recycling bins," he said.

"This comes at a time when councils are trying to minimise waste, increase recycling and are striving to provide value for money to the taxpayer.

"Every extra tonne of rubbish that goes into landfill costs the taxpayer an extra £100, and any steps that can reduce this cost is one less burden on the hard pressed council taxpayer.

"More junk mail for services people do not want or need will only lead to an increase in the amount of unnecessary rubbish created and could place further pressures on the council taxpayer through no fault of either the council or local people."

The Royal Mail delivered 3.3 billion items of unaddressed mail last year, an increase of 12.5% on the previous year.

The LGA has said a move to boost this would increase the 78,000 tonnes of junk mail put in landfill sites each year.

The amount of waste generated is already increasing at around 3% a year, according to the association, and has led to a 15% rise in landfill tax this year and £206 million more of council taxpayers' money being spent on collecting and disposing rubbish in the last 12 months.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "The LGA has not written to us and they are entirely wrong in thinking anything Royal Mail has done will lead to 'unlimited' amounts of unaddressed mailings being sent to people's homes.

"75% of unaddressed mail is delivered by rivals - and if Royal Mail did not deliver any of this mail then it would simply be posted through people's letter boxes by other operators."

* The postal regulator today launched an inquiry into complaints that letters are being collected from post boxes as early as 9am.

Residents in areas including South Wales, Derbyshire and Ipswich complained that collections are being made before their post was delivered, giving them no time to respond to correspondence on the same day.

Postcomm announced a three-month consultation to check details of when post was being collected and delivered before deciding whether to order any changes.

Chief executive Sarah Chambers said 9am seemed "very early" to be collecting post, adding: "There may be some parts of the country where post boxes are so remote that the only way the Royal Mail can guarantee next-day delivery is to collect post early.

"But we need to find out what customers want. We are beginning to hear some concerns about changes to delivery and collection times.

"People are telling us that in some areas post is being collected as early as 9am, whereas deliveries come later than that.

"We need to find out what customers really want from their post and then we will decide if anything needs to be done about it."

Ms Chambers said collection times seemed to be changing "gradually" in some parts of the country.

A spokesman for the Royal Mail said: "Only the Royal Mail collects the mail, delivers the mail six days a week right across the UK.

"Where we have to do an early collection from a particular box, we always aim to ensure that there is a later collection at a nearby box or post office branch.

"None of our rivals provide collection and delivery nationwide to the UK's 27 million addresses or have the capability to do so."