Local Hexham councillor Cath Homer, and I, went just before Christmas to the Bridge End Industrial Estate to meet the team at the Hexham Royal Mail Delivery Office.
It was a hive of activity early in the morning, with a massive amount of extra mail and hundreds of extra parcels each day, all of which the enthusiastic team were sorting and about to deliver.
We spent some time chatting to the posties and the managers, getting their views on everything from the hills of Hexham, the modernisation of Royal Mail, and the dangers of specific dogs. Cath is seen here with John Hardy, who has delivered her area of Hexham for over 14 years.
In truth, noone knows that patch of the town better than John. Likewise, I had a good chat with Valerie Wilson who for the last 7 years has delivered East Hexham, including probably the biggest and toughest hill, which all agreed was Eastwood Grange, just off the Corbridge Road. There is clearly a great atmosphere in the delivery depot - which you need as 50 + people are working really close together in a high pressure job. Between 9-24 december the office will handle around a million items.
I also chatted to the 2 lead Managers, Steven Calder, and Richie Foster. Both talked positively about the future for Royal Mail, not least because it has an infrastructure that no other competitor can match, which will be key as the future market for parcels develops over the years. But the posties will need new equipment, not least new vehicles to carry the loads, and both made the case that the modernisation will provide this. We discussed the pay rise and the share scheme and this was seen as a really good thing - as it incentivises the team, with extra payment linked in 2 ways to greater productivity.
We also talked dogs: please ensure your dog is not attacking postmen or women - this is not acceptable. If this goes on two things will happen: your post will not get delivered, and if the situation gets worse the police could get involved, and / or possibly the dog taken away. This is a serious matter, and our posties deserve protection.
Finally, there was clearly a real sense of long term community spirit amongst the posties, allied to a determination to make the Royal Mail a competitive and long term force, in a difficult world, where it has real competition. Everything I saw in Hexham last week showed that the team there are totally committed to their community, and ready and willing to take on all comers to make the business pay, and enhance their own return from a business they now have a share in.