Monday, 10 October 2011

20 per cent of us don't want neighbours to handle our post Here's a dilemma for the postal services which policy makers need to acknowledge. According to recent research carried out by Consumer Focus, one in five people are unhappy for any of their neighbours to receive any of their post. Royal Mail have proposals to leave undeliverable items with neighbours as a matter of policy (it happens already but is not standard practice, it seems). 'For non-signature items, if the neighbour is at home and accepts the item the postman will deliver a notification card to the addressee. This will detail the address of the neighbour.' Taking in deliveries for a neighbour is widespread practice and has obvious advantages, being more efficient and lubricating local interaction. Where I live it happens a lot. I've pointed out before that it's one of relatively few ways in which older people, often at home when others are out, can play a simple, valued, trusted neighbourly role. But if you don't get on with or even recognise your neighbours, or are particularly sensitive about the content of some of your post, you might at least want to have a choice about whether the Royal Mail takes this course. Eighty per cent of respondents thought they should be able to opt in or opt out of having a neighbour receive their post. If Royal Mail go ahead with their proposals, it will go against the sensitivities of a sizeable minority. Note the lack of specificity in the research finding - 20% don't want any neighbour to handle any of their post. But if they pander to that minority, they contribute further to the undermining of the role of the neighbour and the aspirations of modern governments to increase local social capital. So how hard would it be to systematise the preference for receipt of undeliverable post by a neighbour? Not something that should be beyond our uses of technology, I think. And if that happens, and we all start to register one way or the other on a database evidencing trust in our neighbours, what a fascinating dataset we'll have. There is a little discussion about this issue following an apparently pseudonymous Guardian Comment is Free article (written by someone with inside knowledge - a postal worker perhaps? - who has yet to discover that some neighbours are female - ah so it can't be a postal worker then).

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