A rally of postmasters took a petition of four million names to 10 Downing Street last month (how come they delivered by hand?) to protest about loss of income and falling numbers. One of the alarming statistics bandied about was that only 5% of rural post offices make any money for the government and, therefore, one assumes, don't make much for the retailers either.
Without, I'm sure, a hint
of irony, the Post Office continues to run its 'pre-approval' seminars for wannabe subpostmasters. These seminars are day-long events for people interested in buying their own branch. It's a fast-track recruitment process which means that anyone who has successfully completed the course stands a far better chance of getting a post office.
Asif Rabbani, whose father runs a sub post office in York, had been rejected a couple of times in the past in his efforts to buy a post office, so
he decided to attend a pre-approval seminar. It cost £95 + VAT and was held at Gatwick, Surrey. (The seminars are dotted around the country - although Gatwick wasn't convenient for York-based Asif, it was the last one this year so he went for it).
"They said at the end that I have every quality they are looking for. What they really want now are salesmen - people who can push the business forward," says Asif.
He saw all sorts there, from a Porsche-driving sales rep to teachers and coppers among his 70-odd classmates.
"After the course you fill in an application form online along with your business plan, which is followed by a telephone interview. We were told that many of us would pass but that not everybody would be suitable. For example, I think that the guy who spent all day texting his mates instead of listening won't pass!"
According to Jackie Ilesley, head of the Post Office's Network Service, more than 500 potential subpostmasters attended seminars last year and out of 341 subsequent applications, 244 applicants were successful.