Computer Weekly dropped a bombshell into the General Election campaign this week with an exclusive story that Consignia is in talks with the German IT giant Siemens about hiving off parts of the Royal Mail.
Proposals under discussion include outsourcing deliveries which would mean British postmen and women wearing a Siemens logo on uniforms.
The magazine claims the announcement of the proposals are being held back until after the election. It also says a site in East London has been earmarked for the initial deal to minimise the risk of strike action and that talks are far enough advanced to warrant Siemens having already selected an executive to lead any bid.
The proposals are aimed at cutting costs and boosting flexibility by replacing antiquated business processes and to beat off new competition in the core letter-delivery business.
Award-winning journalist Tony Collins, who wrote the story, said: "It’s an important story for computer suppliers. Siemens is now running the whole of National Savings, the Passport Agency and the Immigration Service. US company EDS is handling £90bn worth of money coming in to the Inland Revenue. Between EDS and Siemens, they’ve pretty well got it sewn up in terms of how we run the country. If these two companies were in dispute with the Government it would be a pretty difficult situation."
The story originated with a tip-off to Computer Weekly editor Karl Schneider and has taken three weeks to investigate. Schneider said: "I think the Government thinks it’s a sensitive issue, otherwise it wouldn’t have delayed making an announcement.
"It’s sensitive because it’s a German company taking over parts of the world’s oldest postal service. It would be symbolic if people delivering letters were wearing the logo of a German company."
He denied the timing of the story was politically motivated but agreed that it had political implications.
"It wasn’t planned to come out two weeks before the election but we wanted independent corroboration which we got from three sources. A source told us explicitly about the logos without us prompting them so it’s clearly more than just an idea."
By Philippa Kennedy