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Mermaids Secret

The Lizard Post Office

Our Post Office
Sue has asked me to produce an update on the current position regarding The Lizard Post Office, so perhaps I should start with a brief history explaining how we have arrived in this position. Sub Post Offices, of which there were then some 11,500 around the Country, have always been privately-owned businesses, the Sub Postmaster being a Self-Employed Agent under a 2-tier type of Contract made up from a commission-based payment plus a "Core-tier" payment. The Core-tier payment was necessary since commission alone would not provide sufficient income to support a viable business, and the Government similarly subsidised POL (Post Office Ltd.) so that it also could survive. Shortly after the Coalition Government came into power, the Business Secretary (Vince Cable) suggested that the Taxpayer should no longer subsidise The Post Office, and so the "Network Transformation" (NT) plan came into being. The plan was that the Post Office would no longer provide the main income for the business, and the traditional Sub Office would be replaced by a new model "Main" or "Local" located in an existing viable business; there would no longer be a Core-tier payment so Post Office would no longer be the main source of income. The existing Sub Postmaster would be expected to leave the network with a compensation payment, also funded by the Government. The initial target was to convert 6,500 Offices to one or other of the new models, leaving 5,000 traditional Sub Offices. After some 2 or 3 years, it was decided to extend the programme to include ALL Sub Offices, including The Lizard. All Sub Postmasters were asked to sign a "Conditional Notice of Resignation" stating that they would be prepared to leave the network, with a compensation payment, provided a suitable site could be found for relocation of the Office. This option would have suited us very well as we had been wanting to retire anyway! There are very strict criteria laid down by the Government which have to be met by any prospective relocation site, and sadly nobody in the Village seems prepared to take it on under these conditions for the salary on offer. The Programme was scheduled to end on 31st March 2018, and the Conditional Notice was renewed annually several times. As late as last September, we were told there were no plans in place beyond 31st March for the remaining 400 to 500 "No Solution" Offices such as The Lizard, so we had no idea of what the future might hold beyond this month. Just before Christmas, the Government announced another £370 million investment in the Post Office over the next 3 years, some of this to be used "to support the Rural Network". We will now be able to continue under our existing contracts as long as we are prepared to continue signing the same "Conditional Notice", initially until 31st March 2019, with a further option to renew until March 2021, and we will still receive the compensation providing that a suitable alternative site can be found. If, during that time, we decide to resign and retire, we will not receive a penny. So nothing has changed, they have simply shelved the problem and side-lined the "No Solution" Offices for 3 years, presumably hoping that "Natural Wastage" will reduce the extent of the problem by then. Lynda and I are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We cannot sell the premises on as a Post Office, the Contract ends when I resign and will not be renewed under the same terms. Our retirement fund would have been what we could sell the business on for, but that option has been taken away. We cannot afford to retire without the compensation, and apart from my age, we both have health problems which are making it harder to continue. Having worked through the "Dead Loss" period from Christmas to Easter, when we are out of pocket every week, we need to work through the season in order to (hopefully) recoup some of that loss, so we intend to keep going to the end of the season. We will weigh up the options again nearer then. We recently attended a meeting of the Federation of Sub Postmasters, and it was pointed out that it is all very well blaming the Post Office for the current situation, but they are only doing what the Government tells them to do and they have very little more choice than we do. It is still the government who are financing the continuing compensation packages and the relocation costs. Unless someone comes up with premises which meet the same criteria as before, the only way forward for Sub Postmasters and Parish Councils still facing the same stalemate situation might be to put pressure on their local M.P. to intervene on their behalf to help find a solution. I believe the Parish Clerk has already been in contact with Derek Thomas, and Lynda and I will hopefully be meeting him soon together with Councillors. I promise you all we will be doing our best to find a solution, both for ourselves and for the Village.
Len and Lynda Trott

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