In the last issue I reported on Richard Lambert's frustration in trying to get his hands on anyone from the Post Office to assess his suitability to take over the office from a nearby store that was closing down. In the end he got nowhere and the franchise went to a Co-op further away.

This prompted a call from Ranjit Desai, who runs Westbourne News, Food and Wine just outside Portsmouth. He says the same thing happened to him a few years ago.  A store 100 yards away did a deal with the Co-op, putting a sign in the window to say so.

He applied to the Post Office anyway and the PO said he must appeal to the current sub-postmistress and offer goodwill to her.

He duly applied to the sub-postmistress and she put a figure of £85,000 on the goodwill. The PO also wanted a deposit of £15,000.

So off he went to his bank manager to see about a loan. "It turned out that the sub post office banked with the same branch and the bank manager laughed and said the Co-op had been offering far less than that. He advised me that it wasn't worth it. He said: "Don't get involved, it's a done deal."

Ranjit adds that, in his area, all the POs are run by Co-ops, the outlets having once been One Stops, then converted to Tesco Express, which offloaded them to the Co-op. He therefore thinks there is a bit of a conspiracy going on.

However, an anonymous call from a subpostmaster in Belfast threw rather more light on the subject. Because the post office is a private business, the postmaster/mistress can sell to whomever they like so long as the PO approves. The reason the Co-op gets so many is because it is a pre-approved partner.

Now the good news is you too can be pre-approved. Just get yourself along to a PO seminar. It costs £95 plus VAT per head and it's a one-day event. The next is July 4 (but is booked to its capacity of 70 people). There is one a month for the next six months at places including Rugby, Stoke-on-Trent and London. The PO isn't looking to expand its network, just keep the spaces filled.

If you're interested, phone 01923 215129 to book.