Centre-right think tank the Bow Group has called for a delay to the privatisation of Royal Mail to encourage public and industry support and generate value for the taxpayer.
In a paper by Ben Harris-Quinney, the think tank cites a commissioned YouGov poll showing just 53 per cent of the public are aware of privatisation plans, and 67 per cent are opposed to the move. The figures, says Harris-Quinney, should be of great concern to supporters of the Privatisation Bill, but are not impossible for the Conservative Party to overcome.
Since 2011, when the Postal Services Act was passed setting privatisation in motion, there has been little public debate about its merits, largely due to support from all three parties. It is important that the government “pause and consider the implications of privatisation at this time” and that a comprehensive, free and public debate is heard, Harris-Quinney says.
The paper also puts forward arguments for and against privatisation. Arguing for, Tory MP Michael Fallon concludes that giving Royal Mail access to private sector capital will ensure that the company has a “sustainable and viable long term future” and ensure we continue to have access to a high quality universal postal service (read full arguments here).
Arguing against, campaign director of saveourroyalmail.org Mario Dunn says the sale will mark “the beginning of the end of Royal Mail as we know it”, saying that it is “inconceivable” that a business operating for shareholder return will want to maintain a loss running rural services, meaning cutbacks in these areas affecting residents and small businesses.
Business secretary Vince Cable is expected to announce details of the privatisation later today. The sale is likely to value the business at £2bn to £3bn with at least ten per cent of shares set aside for workers.