Residents of Okehampton and the surrounding areas are calling on Royal Mail for answers concerning the decreasing frequency of postal deliveries they have noted in recent months.

Affected residents and businesses have voiced increasing concern that they are resultantly failing to receive mail including documentation from government departments and letters relating to employment, medical appointments or healthcare within appropriate timeframes.

In response to a post shared on the Okehampton Times Facebook page, several Okehampton residents stated that they were receiving mail only two to three times a week on average, with some even having a week’s worth of mail delivered only once a week. Under the Universal Postal Services Order, Royal Mail is obliged to deliver to every address in the UK Monday to Saturday.

One Okehampton resident described deliveries as “very patchy”, another as “all over the place” with a further resident saying: “Mail isn’t coming for several days at a time for a while now. Then we get a weeks worth of post on one day then nothing again for several days!”

Another concern centred on mail posted first class, which some have reported taking (up to) one week to be sent or received. Such experiences have been shared by those in places including North Tawton, Hatherleigh, Meeth, Merton, Winkleigh, Lydford, Highampton and Sampford Courtenay.

Merton resident Keith Wharton described the village’s postal situation as “haphazard to say the least” and said: “The delivery team deserves much better than this — it’s another example of poor management.”

Meeth resident Maggy Whitehouse referred to post in the village as “patchy” and said: “We have wonderful posties but they are over-stretched and one has been ill lately. Often we get post four or five days late. I breed butterflies so purchase eggs/caterpillars online to raise. So far two sets have died because they were delayed in the post.”

A resident of Sampford Courtenay who did not wish to be named, said: “We have not had any mail deliveries now for two weeks. We are based near the end of a postal round and have been told by our local postman and woman, that when their allotted shift time ends, they do not complete the round as they are not paid overtime, leaving our mail to pile up back at the sorting office.

“We recently had ten letters arrive on one day, some of which were over two weeks old. Whenever we have rang Royal Mail or the sorting office to complain we can never get through to anyone.”

One Okehampton resident, who worked for Royal Mail for many years (now retired), stated the delay was happening as a result of a reduction in service rounds. The resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "Town rounds in Okehampton were recently reduced by four — they're now down to three rounds in total, having previously been seven. The same level of post is now being added onto the rural deliveries, leaving the postmen and women unable to cope and they aren't allowed to work overtime. That's why people aren't getting mail on a daily basis anymore despite legal obligations on the provider. Of course Royal Mail would never tell you this, so I'm setting the record straight here."

According to a January 2023 report from the House of Commons Library, from July to September 2022, Royal Mail deliveries failed to meet current delivery targets for first and second class mail and daily delivery routes — some of which fell short by over 20%. Following an investigation over missed targets, Ofcom said they expect the provider to take steps to restore pre-pandemic levels of service.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We are sorry to residents who have experienced delays. Improving quality of service is our top priority and we are committed to restoring service levels to where our customers expect them to be. The service at the local delivery office has unfortunately been impacted by vacancies and sick absences. Every effort is being made to ensure any delays are kept to a minimum.

“Mail continues to be delivered and anyone who does not receive their post on the day they expect will always be prioritised the following day. Across our business we have plans in place to drive service levels and reduce absence. We hope and expect to see further progress in the coming months.”