Postmasters warned they risked losing £60k

PUBLISHED: 11:29 16 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:43 04 May 2010

POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire were warned they could lose thousands of pounds in compensation unless they keep tight lipped over the Government s closure plans. They were told undercover staff would be checking to make sure they toe the official

POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire were warned they could lose thousands of pounds in compensation unless they keep tight lipped over the Government's closure plans.

They were told undercover staff would be checking to make sure they toe the official line when talking to customers about the controversial plans.

The warning came in a letter from Sue Huggins, the director of the Post Office's Network Change Programme and included a two page crib sheet spelling out the key messages they should deliver to people asking about the closures.

She made it clear that postmasters whose offices are selected for closure could lose compensation packages, worth about £60,000, if they did not co-operate.

"During the programme, representatives of the Post Office will visit branches at random, on an anonymous basis, in order to ensure these 'key messages' are being delivered in an accurate and professional manner," she said.

The letter caused uproar among postmasters already unsure of the future of their businesses and prompted a dramatic climb down by Post Office officials who claimed the letter "should not have been sent out".

"This is getting dirty at the moment," said Haddenham Postmaster, Steve Edwards, secretary of the Cambridgeshire Federation of Sub Postmasters.

"How are they going to know what I am saying to my customers? They would have to tape my conversations and that would undermine my rights.

"Some of our members are elderly and relying on their compensation if their businesses should close. To keep their chances of compensation alive they were being told to do as they were asked.

"The Government doesn't want members of the public knowing what is going on. But now they can say what they want."

The Government plans to close 2,500 post offices nationwide. But East Cambridgeshire Postmasters must wait until the spring to discover whether they are being targeted.

The news will not be made public until June and a final decision will be taken only after a six-week consultation programme.

Haddenham, Wilburton, Stretham and Witchford post offices are threatened with closure under the Government plan.

A Post Office spokesman said the letter should not have been sent out as it contained "factual inaccuracies".

He added: "We apologise for this and have written to sub-postmasters confirming that.

"We would like to make it clear that we will not be doing anonymous testing, that's not going to happen - it was never going to happen."

Linda McCord from East of England Postwatch, based in Ely, said: "The wording in the letter was very unfortunate and we did seek clarification

"We signed a Memorandum of Understanding to keep information confidential until the end of the consultation process.

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