Thousands of sub-postmasters across the country have been forced into a painful stay of execution after the government said its decision on branch closures will be delayed until May.
The government says the delay is due to the large number of responses it has received as part of its consultation process, which ended on March 8. But the news has angered sub-postmasters who feel they are being left in the dark over the future of both their livelihoods and of the service they provide to the community.
Julie Fox, who owns Overmoigne Post Office and Stores near Dorchester, Dorset, is annoyed she is unable to inform her customers what is going on and is fearful the loss of her post office will also lead to the eventual demise of her store.
She told Convenience Store: "It's all on hold now for another couple of months and it's very frustrating. You do your own calculations and worry a lot. We don't know where we stand and it's particularly worrying because we have a lot of elderly customers who rely on us. The sad thing is that if the post office goes, the shop goes. There's nothing I can do about it. It doesn't seems to matter how much I've done to improve the business."
Fellow subpostmaster Kate Ellwood who runs Barton Post Office and Village Store in North Yorkshire added: "It's a very big worry. A lot of our customers rely on us and if we're forced to close it would be a great shame as we offer a fantastic service. A lot of subpostmasters are saddened at the government and its policies."
Under-secretary of state for trade and industry Jim Fitzpatrick said: "We have received more than 2,500 representations and are grateful to those who took the time to participate in the process. We are giving consideration to the comments received and hope to be able to announce our final decisions in May. Talks are in progress between Post Office Ltd and Postwatch."