MP apologises after people forced to pay £2.50 for campaign letter

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A Conservative MP has pledged to refund anyone caught out by a postal gaffe involving undelivered mail.

A number of people paid £2.50 at a sorting office in Wrexham, north Wales, only to find the envelope awaiting collection was a campaign letter from Sarah Atherton, the city’s MP.

She has apologised for the inconvenience and her office has launched an investigation to find out why her stamps were ruled “invalid” by Royal Mail.

Incensed residents labelled the mix-up “shocking” with one saying: “Outrageous to make people, some of whom can ill afford it, fork out for an envelope full of Tory propaganda.”

One woman, who asked not to be named, said she paid £2.50 for Ms Atherton’s letter having received a Royal Mail slip advising her of an undelivered letter.

The mum later shared her experience on social media to warn others.

“I didn’t expect it to blow up like it has,” told North Wales Live. “I wasn’t trying to make a political point, I just wanted to alert people. I made the post not because of who it was, but because what it was – I would have done the same had it been junk mail for double glazing.

“When I was leaving the sorting office, I saw an elderly lady climb out of a taxi with a similar Royal Mail slip in her hand. It may or may not have been for Sarah Atherton’s letter, I don’t know, but it worried me enough to warn others. She may have had to pay £2.50, plus another £15 for the taxi round-trip, just to get a letter she didn’t want.

“In these difficult times, for some people £2.50 can be a lot of money. It can go towards their gas or pay for a loaf of bread. It’s also a waste of time and effort. It annoyed me and I just hope my post has helped others.”

Ironically, Ms Atherton’s constituency office lies directly opposite the Royal Mail’s sorting office in Wrexham. After finding her letter was not what she expected, the mum marched across and banged on the door but got no answer.

In the envelope was a single A4 sheet of plain paper, plus a return envelope. It had a second-class stamp with a QR strip and was individually addressed.

“What annoyed me was that the envelope was plain with no indication of the sender,” said the mum.

“The franking was for Chester and North Wales, so it had been sent locally. As I was waiting for a letter from the hospital, I thought it might be important.

“As there were no other markings on the envelope, I was unable to make an informed choice whether to accept it or reject it.

“So I paid my £2.50. When letters are sent out like this, they really should have some sort of identification on them.”

On social media, people thanked her for the warning but for some it came too late. “I’ve paid £2.50 to have it delivered on Thursday,” sighed a woman. “I will be very annoyed if it’s worthless junk!”

At the sorting office, the mum was told by staff they had a “large amount” of similar letters awaiting collection. However some of the MP’s letters were delivered as intended – including to the mum’s neighbour opposite.

The Royal Mail urged letter senders to buy stamps from “reputable outlets”. A spokesperson said: “Generally such surcharges are applied in cases where a customer has inadvertently posted items with insufficient postage or invalid stamps.

“If customers have any suspicion around stamps they have been sold, they can report it on our website. We recommend customers always buy stamps from reputable Royal Mail-approved outlets. If in doubt, stamps are available in Post Office branches throughout the UK and from the Royal Mail shop.”

Ms Atherton, a former nurse said: “We have been made aware that this has happened to a handful of people and apologise for the inconvenience caused. We are looking into what went wrong so it does not happen again. If those who have been charged want to email [email protected] with proof, we will reimburse the cost.

“People want to make this stamp story a political one, but really this takes away from the message I was conveying, that we need to concentrate on access to healthcare in Wrexham.

“The health campaign continues and I would like to know your experiences of the health service, so if you have received the form then please fill it in and return it in the pre-paid envelope provided as your views are invaluable.”

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