Tuesday, 26 June 2012

How to shoot yourself in the foot

The United Kingdom is, I believe, the only country in the world whose postage stamps don't bear the name of the country.  What's more, they bear no words of any sort, just the value of the stamp - and that might be "2nd" or "1st".  This, I presume, is an historical legacy.  It was, after all, in this country that a national postal service was first introduced.  And the word "national" is or was important.  Back in the middle of the 19th century few English people would have considered dropping a line to a friend in, say, Paris or any other overseas town or city so it was hardly necessary to show the name of the country on those first postage stamps.  If my history is correct, those first stamps were penny blacks, the cost of sending a letter to any address in the country being just one penny.  Even in my teenage years - the early ones, anyway - the cost of sending a letter to another UK address was just tuppence ha'penny, two and a half times what it had been a hundred years before.  Given what inflation had done to the buying power of the pound (and the penny) over the intervening years, either the 19th century cost was high or the 20th century cost was remarkably low.  Of course, volumes and new technology contributed towards keeping the cost comparatively low in those more recent years.

During the last 60 years the cost of sending a letter has increased considerably and at the beginning of this year the cost of a second class stamp was 36p.  (I don't buy first class stamps so have no idea what the cost of those was.)  And remember, since we "went decimal", that tuppence ha'penny of my teenage years had become just one "new" penny so the cost of sending a letter had increased by 360% in about 60 years.  And still the Royal Mail operated at a loss.  They tried cutting out the second delivery of the day.  They cut the number of collections from post boxes, especially the later ones.  No matter what they did, they couldn't stop losing money.  So, from April this year the cost of a second class stamp was increased to 50p, a rise of more than 40%!  That makes the cost of sending a letter ten bob, half a nicker!  I accept that 50p is probably cheap compared to the 1d back in the 1840s but nonetheless people think it excessive.  No wonder people are resorting more and more to texts and emails.  The Royal Mail, it seems to me, will be making even greater losses in the future.

It doesn't often happen but yesterday there were no cows on Scare Hill and no sheep in the field round the Chattri so I was able to walk to and beyond the memorial.  The side of Scare Hill is one of the few places affording a view right up the Standean valley.  This picture, however, was not taken yesterday.

1 comment:

Buck said...

The Royal Mail seems to be in the same condition as the USPS... i.e., dire straits. The USPS has been losing money for at least 20 years, with no improvement in sight.

And... FWIW... I remember three cent first class stamps (they were purple!) in my youth.