HARROW Council's recent announcement that they will be providing business rate relief for small businesses trading in Harrow will, I'm sure, be most welcomed by small retailers, small companies and their employees across the area.

However, I do question why it has taken until now to introduce the scheme, with the UK having been in recession now for well over a year.

Of course, what is affecting people most at the moment, especially businesses, is the postal strike. Support for the strike remains strong because people value their postal service as a public service - an arrangement which serves such a densely populated country very well, and which remains affordable.

What they observe is a management paying themselves extraordinary salaries and presiding over the fast-track break-up of the service (including the closure of post offices up and down the country - the latest in this area being in South Harrow).

What people may not know is that the source of these changes stem from when the regulator imposed EU competition rules on Royal Mail three years ahead of the rest of Europe, with the management negotiating a terrible deal with competitors, who have cherry-picked off Royal Mail the most profitable business - the collection and sorting of posts from large business users in the cities, and which, instead of setting up their own delivery services as the Government claimed they would, Royal Mail deliver for them (the main cost being in the delivery, not the sourcing the product).

Companies like TNT and UK Mail now handle more than one letter in five in the UK, paying workers 25 per cent less than those employed by Royal Mail.

The postal union (CWU) has called strikes, not to block modernisation - they fully embrace automation in the sorting process.

Problems to the service have arisen from previous union-agreed cuts of 60,000 staff in the past five years - all voluntary redundancy, and a quarter of staff going part-time.

Since 2007, 200 delivery workers have gone in London, leading to increased mail-loads per delivery, and, consequently, a reduced quality of service.

Workers are striking against changes to working practice never agreed, as well as a spiralling increase in reports of victimisation and bullying. Without any consultation with the union, in some areas management used computer programmes to revise postal routes and how much mail each postie had to deliver.

This is the source of the long-running deterioration in the postal service - management incompetence, with a government not willing to intervene and an opposition cheerleading for privatisation from the sidelines.

I'm sure small businesses in Harrow will not forget this government's neglect to intervene as levels of unsorted mail continue to rise in a hurry.

MARK S BROWN Harrow Postal Workers Support Group