The Royal Mail has paid out more than £700,000 in compensation for providing a second-rate service in Sussex over the last five years, The Argus can reveal.

The payout follows more than 80,000 complaints for lost, stolen or damaged mail in the BN postcode area. The amounts, obtained by The Argus following a Freedom of Information request, average 43 complaints a day with £384 being paid out to disgruntled customers.

The BN area takes in Brighton and Hove, Lewes, Worthing, Eastbourne and parts of Horsham. Back in 2006/07 the BN area generated 16,465 complaints and £135,374 was paid in compensation for lost, damaged or undelivered post and packages.

For 2007/08 the complaints reached 16,948 with £150,801 paid out before compensation peaked at £163,392 with 15,982 complaints in 2008/09.

The figures fall slightly to 15,287 complaints and £124,453 compensation in 2009/10, before climbing again to 15,571 and £127,754 for the 2010/11 financial year.

In total the region’s Royal Mail received 80,253 complaints with £701,774 paid out. Late post was the cause of most complaints with 31,959 registered and £514,835 paid out.

Sally Hopkins, from the Royal Mail, said: “Royal Mail’s average daily postbag contains 59 million letters, packets and parcels, the overwhelming majority of which arrive safely and quickly at the correct address. We are always concerned to hear of any complaints regarding our services and have an extremely fair and efficient process for handling these.

“Royal Mail customers should be confident in our services and systems. Where we are alerted to problems, either through our own stringent checks or from information supplied by our customers, we take decisive action to investigate.”

The figures, which go up to April 1 2011, don’t cover this year’s local postal shake-up.

Changes at the North Lane sorting office, along with new routes, delivery times and the scrapping of mail bags has caused delivery backlogs.

The Argus asked for the results to be broken down into individual postcodes but the Royal Mail rejected the request stating that it would damage its commercial interests.

Simon Kirby the MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “Clearly, if Royal Mail has failed to live up to its minimum service standards, these customers are entitled to compensation.”

Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “It’s disappointing that so many customers in Sussex have been let down by the Royal Mail in this way.”