Public Affairs: Grayling to handle postal liberalisation

The Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) has awarded a three-year public affairs and PR contract to Grayling Political Strategy as it prepares to open up the £5bn letters market to full-blown competition.

Grayling will support the postal regulator's in-house PR team in communicating the reforms to businesses, consumers and politicians. According to the tender document, it will be expected to provide 'hands-on support in the face of a hostile media storm'.

The Postal Services Act 2000 gave Postcomm a mandate to promote competition in the postal market and break up Royal Mail's monopoly. From the beginning of 2006, rival operators will for the first time be allowed to inject their mail into Royal Mail's local delivery network.

Grayling chief executive Vivien Hepworth leads the account, which she said would be serviced across its UK office network, comprising London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. It will also help the regulator keep abreast of EU political developments through its Brussels office. The agency reports to Postcomm communications director Denise Bagge and secured the contract after a competitive pitch.

Postcomm is eager to promote the idea that competition will improve overall customer service levels.

The regulator will also need to reassure sceptics that market liberalisation will not further damage service levels in rural areas, many of which have suffered post office closures.

Last month, Postcomm called for a domestic price freeze at Royal Mail to run from April 2006 to March 2010 as part of a raft of proposals currently undergoing consultation. Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton branded the plans a 'kick in the teeth for our people'.

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