PO faced

Postmasters who speak out about closures face losing £60,000 pay-offs

Post Office bosses turned to blackmail and spying to make sub-postmasters co-operate with their closure programme. Postmasters were told exactly how to answer questions from worried customers - and warned that undercover PO staff would check that they complied.

They were also told they could lose compensation payments of up to £60,000 if they failed to parrot the official line. Tories reacted with outrage, saying postmasters were being forced to act as Government spin-doctors.

I'm not sentimental about sub-post offices and village shops. I've lived in villages and seen the reality of 'local shops for local people' and wasn't impressed. Many sub-POs are largely used as payment stations for pensioners and people on benefits. The 'postal' aspect has all but disappeared. I'm sure there are small communities where the post office is an important asset and where that is the case I'm equally sure the local PO will survive. I lived in a prosperous village in Hertfordshire many years ago. looking at old photos of the high street I could see that things had looked very different 50 years earlier. There were three bakers, two ironmongers, an undertaker with a joinery next door (coffin making a speciality), two butchers, 4 pubs, a greengrocer, 2 general stores, a flour miller, a post office, a garage with two petrol pumps, a farrier/blacksmith, a village school, a police house and so on...

Things change, not always for the best. But there are still thriving villages around - Wye, in Kent, is a lovely example. Trouble is, houses there cost a small fortune. I'm sure they've got a post office but it's probably not particularly busy on benefit payout day is it? Oh, the irony.