FIRST and second class stamp prices are to increase by 14p from next month to record highs of 60p and 50p, the Royal Mail announced today.
Prices will rise from the current 46p and 36p from April 30, while the cost of posting large letters will increase from 75p to 90p for first class and 58p to 69p for second class.
The increases followed a decision by regulator Ofcom to give Royal Mail the freedom to set its own prices.
Royal Mail said that even after the increases, second class stamps will still be the cheapest in Europe while first class will be around average.
The Royal Mail also announced that millions of people on low incomes will be able to buy up to 36 stamps for Christmas at the current price.
The new prices, showing increases of 30% for first class and 39% for second class, follow a huge reduction in the number of letters posted - down from 84 million a day six years ago to 59 million today.
Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene said: "We know how hard it is for households and businesses when our economy is as tough as it is now. No-one likes to raise prices in the current economic climate but, regretfully, we have no option.
"Royal Mail provides one of the highest quality postal services in Europe for amongst the lowest prices for both consumers and business.
"That service is under threat from declining volume, e-substitution and ever increasing competition. Because of these pressures Royal Mail has lost £1 billion over the last four years; the sustainability of the service is now at risk.
"Price increases are needed to return the universal service to sustainability."