EXCLUSIVE: Postmasters challenge minister over ‘failing’ Post Office

More than 30 Post Office (PO) retailers criticised Postal Affairs Minister Kevin Hollinrake over falling pay and rising costs last week

The announcement of a new temporary Post Office (PO) in the MP’s constituency attracted dozens of accounts of how shop owners are forced to ‘subsidise’ the cost of running a PO, due to a loss of trade, services and commission, combined with rising business costs.

The Facebook post by Hollinrake said he was “very pleased that we’ve been able to secure a temporary Post Office provision” for a town in his constituency, after the previous Costcutter store hosting the service went into administration.

Helmsley, in North Yorkshire, saw its PO closed when its host store Costcutter went into administration last August. A PO mobile van operated temporarily in the town last autumn, according to the Darlington & Stockton Times, but was later shut in November 2022.

Anger at falling Post Office remuneration

However, PO retailers including Sean Hudson, national branch secretary of the Subpostmasters Branch of the Communications Workers Union, said the minister had failed to resolve the “very poor remuneration” stores receive from the PO, which was described as the “root cause” of closures and PO retailer suffering.

Josh Grove, subpostmaster at Rodmill PO in Eastbourne, Sussex, commented that “nothing has changed”, and postmasters “currently work every hour [they] can under the sun just to keep the wolves from the door”.

“Services are disappearing left right and centre, but if things don’t improve soon so will we,” he continued. “May as well go and open a charity shop because that’s what I basically do now, but it’s got a Post Office logo above the door.”

Lacking funds

Maxine Hastings, postmaster in Fairford PO in Gloucestershire, commented that her town has no bank, and her branch has been open for eight years, with it personally costing her £200 a month to stay open. “How many more have to close before you do something?” she asked.

Brian Smith, postmaster at Freefield PO, Lerwick, Shetland, shared concerns about out the disparity between the treatment of subpostmasters and those in more senior roles, specifically referencing PO chief executive Nick Read.

“How many Post Offices have closed due to dropping incomes, while Nick Read continues to be awarded excessive bonuses paid for out of public funding and underpayment of postmasters?” he asked. “Post Office is run by a boys club who line each other’s pockets.”

Hudson added to this criticism of disproportionate salaries.

“The Post Office seems to have no problem in handsomely remunerating its senior executives and managers, but they cannot manage to properly remunerate those who generate the income for them,” he said.

“If subpostmasters had a proper seat at the table…there would be…more action where it’s needed – at the branch level and away from the boardroom, which seems to get bigger and bigger on [a] monthly basis.

“We are bottom of the pile and despite the promised resetting of the relationship between subpostmasters and Post Office, all we have seen is more managers appointed and more bonuses dished out.”

No confidence in PO board

Stephen Dobbin, shopkeeper at Premier Store in Millport, Great Cumbrae Island, highlighted the urgency of the situation, noting that in a recent poll carried out by the postmaster’s campaign group, Voice of the Postmaster, 100% of its members replied had no confidence in the board of the PO.

“No confidence whatsoever,” he said. “It is time for HMG to take a stance to save this much-loved brand before it is lost forever.”

Smith responded that this poll was “completely ignored” by Hollinrake, who stated that the PO is “a private company and should deal with their Postmasters as they see fit”.

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