Stamp out this silly idea post haste...

Industry regulator Ofcom is consulting on proposals which Royal Mail executives say will allow their business to become profitable again, but which could see second class stamp prices rocket from 36p to 55p.

Other proposals being considered are no-limit increases for the price of a first class stamp until 2018, which would not require Ofcom approval.

We believe these measures would create another cost barrier to trading for small firms reliant on postal services who can ill-afford further price hikes. We have written to Ofcom pointing this out.

We understand that Royal Mail is a loss-making organisation and that action needs but constant price rises are not the way.

Small businesses are regular users of the service and would be the hardest hit by any increases.

And almost all small businesses have seen the cost of doing business rise over the past year.

In order to reduce costs, they would be forced to look to alternative providers, or reduce the amount of mail they send, which in turn would result in even less business for Royal Mail and a self-defeating spiral of decline.

Postage costs went up 12% just last year.

One alternative would be to diversify the services on offer by making available more high-end services, enabling an affordable price of the standard service.

Jane Bennett, Head of Campaigns, Forum of Private Business

Student website is all about M.E.

At this time of year, many young people will be considering university options .

Leaving home can be a little bit scary, especially if you have a serious medical condition. Action for M.E., the UK charity for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and their carers, has now set up a Student Hub section on its website,

It is packed with facts to help young people manage their condition and links to an interactive forum for peer support.

M.E. is a fluctuating chronic illness affecting 250,000 people in the UK. Many first became ill at school, college or university.

It may be diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome.

Symptoms include persistent exhaustion, muscle pain, sleep disturbance, feeling flu-like and having problems concentrating.

Sir Peter Spencer, Chief Executive, Action for M.E.

Black and white in full colour

Over the past five weeks, there has been a drift of swans feeding locally in what I presume is a field of winter wheat or some other grain.

Anyway, when passing the field on my bike, I thought they had been joined by a rather unusual but unidentifiable dark bird.

They were at some distance from the road.

I took my camera, with a zoom lens, and solved the mystery.

Now, either the bird took a wrong turn while migrating from Australia or has escaped from an aviary.

Either way, it certainly took a fancy to the big white bird.

John Nuttall, via email