Earlier this year everything was looking rosy for Lesley Brown (Frankmarsh Stores, Barnstaple). In March she and her husband Bill had won our Zero Tolerance award for their stand against crime, achieved by working closely with their local community. In May Lesley was sworn in as Mayor of Barnstaple. Four days later Bill died suddenly and her world was turned on end.

Lesley contacted me because she wanted to inform others about the cold-hearted treatment you might receive from suppliers when you lose your partner. Santander Bank, with whom the couple had banked for many years, told her she couldn’t have the same sort of account as she was no longer in a ‘partnership’. Smiths News wanted a copy of the death certificate as proof of her change of status.

PayPoint wants her to start over again with a new contract and direct debit arrangements. It’s company policy, Lesley was told (although PayPoint points out that, as a partnership is a legal entity, the company is required to update it to the correct status).

She took the latter’s response particularly hard. “I feel kicked in the teeth by PayPoint at a time when I needed all the help I could get.” She points out that she has been a loyal supporter for the past 12 years even though, as her figures show, she operates the service at a loss to her business.

Lesley has since been contacted by Seamus Smith, MD of PayPoint, who sent her a sincere apology. He speaks too of retraining reps in dealing with such situations.

There have also been some splendid supporters. “Booker has been brilliant and I’ve had fantastic support from my staff and the local community,” says Lesley.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the bureaucracy imposed upon the bereaved is the insulting information that the fact you were a partner with your spouse for many years as well as business partner, counts for nothing.

Lesley says she will complain to the financial authorities about Santander but, meanwhile, she needs a bank account. A bit more time to adjust and sensitive treatment from suppliers would have been better.