Privatisation: The Latest Twist in Royal Mail’s History

A plan to privatise the Royal Mail, which will see around 150,000 workers handed shares worth millions of pounds, is the latest twist in its turbulent but distinguished history.

Here is a timeline of the key events that have shaped the British postal service:

1The origins of the Royal Mail go back to the early years of the Tudor monarchy. Brian Tuke, a former King’s Bailiff in Sandwich, was acknowledged as the first “Master of the Posts” and went on to build up a network of postmasters across England for Henry VIII.

2Charles I made the postal service available to the public, before Charles II established the General Post Office in 1660.

3Uniformed postmen hit the streets for the first time.

4The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was released nationally. This was the world’s first postage stamp. Reproductions of the Penny Black were released in 2000 to mark the 160-year anniversary of its release.

5The first Post Office pillar-box was erected in Jersey. The boxes, painted dark green, were introduced to mainland Britain the following year.

6The postal order was introduced, followed two years later by the parcel post service.

7Second class stamps were introduced.

8The Royal Mail Parcels business was rebranded as Parcel force.

9The Post Office Group was renamed Consignia in a massive, but short-lived, rebranding exercise which reportedly cost £2 million.

10Fifteen months after it was renamed Consignia, the postal service was renamed the Royal Mail Group focusing on its key brands – Post Office, Royal Mail and Parcel force.

11After 350 years of tradition, Royal Mail lost its monopoly on the postal service when the regulator, PostComm, opened up the market three years ahead of the rest of Europe.

12Royal Mail announced plans to close 2,500 Post Office branches.

13Lord Mandelson, the Labour business secretary, launched an attempt to part-privatise the Royal Mail. The bid failed after opposition from the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

14The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition announced its intention to sell off the Royal Mail’s delivery business but retain the Post Office network in public ownership.

15The Government took on historic assets and liabilities of the Royal Mail pension scheme.

16The Royal Mail faces Privatisation.

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