Have you recently sent a letter or parcel to Bath or Peterborough or Birmingham? Did you know which county to use in the address or did you need to look it up? The parcel price comparison site ParcelHero says we are all wasting time identifying postal counties, as they haven’t been required since 1996 when they were replaced by postcodes.
This mid-Victorian map includes long departed counties such as Middlesex, Huntingdonshire and Cardiganshire. We’ve not needed counties in postal addresses since 1996, says ParcelHero, so why do we continue to waste time and increase confusion by including them?
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says address fields still included on many online forms should drop the requirement to include counties. Says David:
‘Counties were created way back in the Middle Ages. They still have a role to play in local government and, well, cricket. For addressing letters and parcels, however, they are as out of date as velum and quill pens. Let’s face it, none of us are sure if Avon is still a county or whether the Welsh town of Aberystwyth is now in Cardiganshire, Dyfed or Ceredigion.
‘According to the address on many letters I receive, ParcelHero is based in Middlesex - except that Middlesex hasn’t existed for over 50 years…
‘It’s time we addressed the problem of addresses and eliminated counties entirely. No retailer or business of any kind should still be asking what county customers live in. Since 1996, when optical character recognition technology was introduced, the first half of the postcode has identified a location with far greater accuracy. In 2010, the postal regulator advised the Post Office to stop including counties in any data it collects or releases. It's not hard to see why. For example, Huntingdonshire is widely recognised as a county but, in fact, it hasn’t been one since 1974. Similarly, Cleveland came into existence in the same year, but vanished again in 1996.
‘Frequently, county names only add to confusion. For example, there are two Gillinghams in England – one in Kent and another in Dorset – which can result in delay if the sender fails to do a little research and labels their package with the wrong county.
‘Even more confusingly, traditional county boundaries split some towns in two, leaving many senders to guess the county. Additionally, the former postal counties list didn’t always precisely match with local authority counties. For example, Sonning Common is in Oxfordshire but its postal county was Berkshire.
‘Of course, old habits die hard. Bureaucratic wrangles embroiled Rutland when it was absorbed within Leicestershire in 1974. Residents started a campaign and, in 1996, it was reinstated as a local authority county. The Post Office caught up with the twists and turns of fate in 2007, reviving Rutland and adding it to its purely historical, redundant list of former postal counties.
‘Sentiment is all fine and good, but not when it makes life more difficult for businesses and individuals sending parcels and letters. ParcelHero has not included a requirement for counties in its address field for pick up and destination addresses for many years. It is time for all retailers and businesses to stop asking for counties as part of a shipping address.