The cost of universal postal service in Spain is very expensive for public coffers compared to other countries and the public company that provides it, Correos, is very inefficient. These are two of the main conclusions reached by the Independent Authority of Fiscal Responsibility (Airef) after analyzing this service within the study of the efficiency of public spending in different areas commissioned by the Government of the PP in 2017 by requirement of Brussels. To correct this excessive expense and the situation of inefficiency and losses in which the operator is found, the audit institution proposes a battery of measures among which are reducing the number of days of distribution of correspondence, outsourcing part of the network of offices Correos and subsidize the provision of universal post service only in areas where it is not profitable, such as rural.
The State has the obligation to provide the universal postal service (SPU) at affordable prices throughout the territory and has entrusted this task to the public company Correos, which it makes financially every year to offer this service. The first serious deficiency detected by the Tax Authority in this parcel is the model by which the amount that Correos should receive to finance the service is defined.
As the plan of provision of the SPU, which in theory will set the criteria to define this compensation, is pending to approve since 2011, since then what the central administration does is make a delivery on account to Correos. And it is the Correos itself, adding up the losses of all its centers where the SPU costs exceed the income, which tells the State what money it needs: For the period 2011-2020, the operator has requested about 1,450 million euros. The Airef considers that this cost is high compared to other countries where this service is compensated directly with public funds, since only 12 of 32 analyzed do so.
Of those 12 States, Spain is the fourth that spends the most in the SPU, an average of 180 euros a year, behind Italy (305), France (295) and Belgium (270). However, in these countries the use of this basic postal service is much higher: while in Spain the number of ordinary shipments per inhabitant through Correos has dropped to 57 years, in France they are 163 per person per year and in Belgium 133, caslificación that leads Germany with 239 shipments. This situation means that, before receiving the funds from the State, Correos has an operating deficit of almost 14.6%, much higher than that of other operators, many of them with a surplus.
To alleviate this deficit, one of the measures proposed by the Airef is that the State only compensates Correos for the deployment of the postal network in rural areas with populations of less than 5,000 inhabitants or for the losses of those centers that have insufficient business volumes. . That is, only the SPU is subsidized in the most vulnerable areas and where it is necessary to guarantee territorial cohesion.
The reason for this deficit is that while the rest of the world's operators have been taking measures to adjust their expenses and income to the plummeting of the traditional mail delivery, Correos has not done that exercise. And that the fall in demand for the service in Spain has been greater. On average, in France, Switzerland, Portugal and the United Kingdom, the use of conventional postal services has fallen by 18% between 2012 and 2017, a fall that operators in those countries have compensated by reducing their workforce by 11%. On the other hand, Correos, faced with a drop of 31% in remittances, almost double, has barely cut its workforce by 9%.
The Fiscal Authority therefore considers that Correos, which currently has 51,205 workers and 8,669 service points, has room to improve its efficiency, although it points out that the new benefit plan that is being designed introduces few incentives in this regard. In order to improve this efficiency, the Airef proposes, for example, to try to increase revenues by diversifying the activity to another booming business, that of the parcel, that the boom of electronic commerce has exploded and in which there are many private operators competing. However, this competition means that the margins of this activity are lower, which would also oblige Correos to reduce its expenses.
In this sense, the regulatory body proposes, among other measures, to reduce the number of delivery days, as other countries such as Italy have already done, and that postmen stop distributing correspondence from Monday to Friday, especially in those areas where there is sufficient demand for a five-day distribution. In addition, and in line with the experience of France and the United Kingdom, it also proposes to outsource to the offices of the network, so that in the towns the postal service is provided through small businesses or that the operator's offices are used in those locations for other activities, businesses and procedures.
The institution warns that if this deficit and inefficiency situation is not corrected, Correos, which last year closed with losses of 153 million euros, will see its losses increase year by year until it consolidates around 200 million.
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