Lost in the mail: The letter telling Post Office staff to improve or face lay-offs

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A stiff wake-up call to Britain's postal services to improve letter deliveries or face the lose of thousands of jobs appeared to have gone astray yesterday.

Consignia, the new name for the Post Office, was forced to admit to a public relations disaster when 1,300 confidential letters sent out to members of their own staff were delivered to the wrong addresses.

After months of public dispoutes between Consignia and a workforce accused of being the most militant in Britain, the company was left with an embarrassing problem caused by a "simple computer error". Even by the glittering standards of previous corporate own goals, Consignia's effort was a remarkable one that saw nearly 20 per cent of the 7,000 letters sent to the wrong place.

Consignia said the computer mixed together different parts of addresses for the mail-shot, containing private pension details. Many were delivered to people who did not even work for the company.

David Browne, 51, received a letter about the pension contributions of a Mr Singh, who lives in Great Barr, Birmingham. Mr Browne, a retired journalist, lives in north London and has absolutely no connection with the Post Office.

"My letter went to the postcode NW8, then must have been redirected to N15 and then E1. But what they failed to realise was that sending it around London wasn't going to help ­ the man it was for lives in Great Barr, in Birmingham.

"So now they've sent me his pension details. It's outrageous and a huge mistake. And this is the new Post Office."

A woman working at the company's pensions department, which is in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, according to Consignia, admitted to the error, which was causing a "few difficulties".

A Consignia spokesman said: "This was a simple computer error. Seven thousand letters were sent, and 1,300 were incorrectly addressed due to a technical error."

Staff at the non-receiving end of the letters will no doubt point to the words of Consignia's chief executive, John Roberts, when the company was renamed in March. "We've got to get the message across very clearly to staff that all our jobs will depend on us delivering the mail in the way that we say to the standards that we set," he said.