Nicholas, a retailer who wishes to keep his location quiet, says he read the piece on the post office often being the last shop in the village (C-Store 2 December) with interest.
“We are the last shop and PO in our village and the change-over to a ‘local’ PO has almost killed the business. We are selling up and giving the business away. The commission rates for the PO are so low that we don’t make minimum wage even when busy. We now have to open 12 hours a day - ie when the shop is open. We do work for free, eg issue certificates of posting, or do a cash declaration or trading period. The contract conditions are worse than Sports Direct zero-hour contracts.
“I am amazed that Post Office Ltd gets away with it. In fact, the reason they get away with it is because sub postmasters are not properly represented in any discussions with Post Office Ltd.
“There are no negotiations or meaningful discussions with sub postmasters about the terms of our contracts. We just have to accept what we are given or leave.”
I asked Nicholas if he really couldn’t sell the business. He said: “We have someone who will take over the shop and post office from us. They are not a buyer as we are having to give it away - because there is no money in it. We are very fortunate to have found this person - he runs the shop in the next village - as we don’t think we could have got anyone to take the shop and PO otherwise and we were very close to having to turn it into a community owned shop with the help of Plunkett.”
(Plunkett is the organisation that promotes and supports co-operatives and social enterprises in rural communities.)
I put his points to the Post Office and Nick Beal, head of agents’ development and remuneration, replied: “We are committed to supporting our branches so that they are sustainable.”
He added that he couldn’t comment on this specific case, but would be happy to directly discuss any issues that the retailer had.
“Just for overall clarity,” he says, “community branches - where the post office is the last shop in the village - can remain on their existing contract if they choose to.”
I asked Nicholas whether he had had that option and he said: “We were a community branch, but POL did everything to make sure we became a ‘local’. They made it such that financially the only sensible thing to do was to become a ‘local’.
“I have discussed things directly with them and they don’t really care. They will talk about sending out retail experts to help, but the bottom line is the same.”
And he concludes: “We are leaving the business. The pressure will continue to grow on sub postmasters now that POL intends to make £100m a year profit - this is all to do with privatising POL.”