Royal Mail has announced that it is to cut 1700 jobs, 1000 of them management positions. The company has reduced the number of employees by around 65,000 since 2002.

Royal Mail said that there were plans to close up to 50 per cent of the 64 mail centres around the UK by 2016, producing annual savings of around £30m. It was “likely” that only five mail centres would be needed in Greater London – Croydon, Greenford, Jubilee (Feltham), Romford and Mount Pleasant, where £32m out of a total of £69m will be spent on modernisation.

The company said it was “undergoing one of the most important change programmes undertaken in the UK” following a decline in letters and an increase in packets. Announcing its “plan for rationalisation and investment in Greater London”, Royal Mail said something had to be done with the number of items posted in London expected to more than halve between 2006 and 2014.

The company reckoned it wouldn’t have to resort to compulsory redundancies and “everyone who wants to remain in the business will be able to do so”.

Mark Higson, managing director of operations and modernisation, said: “Royal Mail’s modernisation programme, which is vital to ensuring a successful future for the letters and parcels business, depends on having the right number of people in our business as well as deploying the right technology and equipment.

“We are conscious of the impact [this] announcement will have on our staff in London. It is hard to reduce job numbers at any time; we are committed to doing everything we can, in line with our agreement with the union, to make these changes on a voluntary basis. We will be providing specialist outplacement advice to help our people affected by this announcement to look for new opportunities outside Royal Mail.”