As well as delivering letters, postmen are an extra pair of eyes who can spot if something is wrong at their customers’ homes.
The Rural Services Network (RSN) has warned MPs that Royal Mail’s competitors are cherry picking areas where they deliver – choosing places like big cities – and that’s making it harder for Royal Mail to make enough cash to go on delivering six days a week to sparsely populated communities in counties like Lincolnshire.
RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “People living in rural areas value the six-day-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere service. They want to see it continue.
“If this cherry-picking continues, we believe it could pose a serious threat to the financial sustainability of the rural postal service – and the rural economy as a whole.”
The RSN told MPs that Ofcom has a legal duty to protect the universal service and should review it now. But Ofcom is waiting until the “last possible moment” at the end of 2015.
Spalding Age UK general manager Liz Walmsley said: “Postmen know their customers – they know if the curtains are not drawn back that there’s something wrong. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s another pair of eyes that won’t be checking up on them at a time when other delivery men have sadly gone into demise.”
She said it always seems to be rural services that suffer and people who live in Holbeach are already travelling to Spalding to pick up parcels if they miss deliveries.
District council deputy leader Nick Worth will fight for six day a week deliveries through the Sparsity Partnership for Authorities Delivering Rural Services (SPARSE), which is one of the operating arms for the RSN.
Coun Worth says running down the frequency of postal deliveries will hit the elderly, small businesses run from home and jobs in Royal Mail.
He said: “It provides jobs for local people and a vital rural service.
“Sometimes for elderly people the postman is the only person they see in a day. A lot of postmen and postwomen know the area, know who they are delivering to and sometimes they spot when older people are not well – and they spot rural crime going on sometimes.”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We believe Ofcom should conduct an early review of the postal delivery market in order to fulfil its primary duty of protecting the universal service for all and to determine quickly the regulatory changes needed to safeguard it.
“Were the universal postal service to become unviable, it could represent the loss of a cherished service upon which thousands of rural communities rely.”