Liberal Democrat minister Ed Davey was one of the two guest speakers at Hillingdon Liberal Democrats earlier today. As his brief covers the Royal Mail and the Post Office, he understandably and rightly spent a fair part of his talk about the future of both organisations.
One point I’d not fully appreciated before was the extent of Ed’s enthusiasm for putting workers back in the driving seat, whether it is through employee share ownership (for the Royal Mail) or the possibility of turning the Post Office into a mutual. Worker ownership and democracy in various guises was a long-standing Liberal Party policy which, whilst it carried over into the merger that formed the Liberal Democrats, never really quite got that much attention.
Ed Davey had some caveats about how the plans to protect the future of the Post Office have not yet been finalised, may yet be changed by Parliament and so on but it was clear that he is very attracted to the idea of making it a mutual where the staff and customers determine its future. The Co-op supermarket chain is a good example of how such structures can lead to well-run, successful companies – even if there is fair room for doubt over how meaningful the participation of customers in the co-operative is in such set-ups.
A sign of the government’s intent in this area is its recently commissioned a report on the mutual options for the Post Office: Mutual Options for Post Office Ltd.
The other speaker was London Assembly candidate Emily Davey (who, as the name might make you guess, is married to Ed). Her talk about housing was sufficiently packed with interesting thoughts that I’ve asked her to do a guest post for Liberal Democrat Voice. So keep an eye out on that site for it hopefully.