Second-class citizens

There's a strange mixture of stories emerging from the Post Office at the moment.

On the one hand, there's good news about the PO's new banking service which will give consumers new reasons to visit their local offices and give retailers more products to sell.

But on the other there is a growing dissatisfaction in some quarters about the Post Office's perceived lack of support and understanding for its front-line subpostmasters, who feel that their traditional business is being undermined. And there is also a lingering disquiet about the number of postmasters who have been sacked and prosecuted for alleged theft, who claim that glitches in the Horizon accounting system is to blame for the discrepancies.

The Post Office is a curious institution anyway part public service, part secret police and I suppose it's understandable that with so much taxpayers' money at stake a high importance is attached to security and transparent accounting. But I'd still like to see subpostmasters valued and trusted more by the government and by those who run the Post Office.

Most retailers I know see their post office counters as an asset to the business and to the community, and the way to preserve the institution and make it a success is to give them the support and the confidence to make Post Office products a necessary and vibrant part of their retail operations.

Sign our petition

We've launched a petition on the Number 10 Downing Street website to urge protection for shopworkers from violent crime, and I urge every reader to sign it, and to tell their friends and family to do so, too.

Everyone in society, not just in the retail trade, was horrified and outraged by violent murders such as the attack suffered recently by Gurmail Singh in Huddersfield. And it draws into focus the fact that, while retailing can be big business, in most cases retailers' prime ambition is to serve their community in a positive and viable way.

As we all know, local stores are the focal points of local communities, and in many cases the only social space left in the area. But in order to maximise this social role and to ensure that the store is open and available when the local people need it, the only solution is often to work long hours behind the counter on your own, and this makes stores vulnerable to attack.

We need as many people as possible in authority to recognise this, and to protect our industry's people better as a result.