Tuesday 27 November 2018

A former Subpostmaster writes: "I hate them."

As this trial has progressed, I have received quite a bit of correspondence. I have heard from Subpostmasters who are seriously worried about the outcome of this trial. They have viable Post Offices and they are worried that a win for the claimants would kill the value of their business. I have asked one of those Subposmasters to write a post on this blog.

I received the following email the other day from a former Subpostmaster. She had problems with Horizon. I have removed any identifying information and posted the email with permission:
I too have been a victim of Horizon although mine was only (!) four figures. I was swooped upon by the auditors on a Thursday morning (pension day) in my little village post office early more than 15 years ago, and it was one of the worst times in my life. 
I had asked for help so so many times from the non helpline. One time trying to balance from 12.30pm until 10pm. I had my area manager come and shadow me on cash account day only for the discrepancy double before his eyes and he had no solution either.
I took a breakdown of my phone bills to show at interview how much I had rung the helpline. 
I was suspended for 3 months. 
I went to a solicitor who told me the Post Office was the last bastion of the British Empire as we could not get any info from the PO to help me. 
I paid the money and was reinstated but never got over the dread of cash account day. paid any discrepancies on time and even now 18 years later (I’m a manager of a charity shop), I am anxious when cashing the till up. 
It was such a relief when I sold up but I’m sorry to say the new lady had the same problems after I had gone with the debt doubling at rollover.
She has become a friend, and to my shame, I’ve never told her of my suspension or my Horizon problems as until the Second Sight programme (2013?) I thought I was useless with the system. 
I want the Post Office held to account. I hate them. I hate how they made me feel and I’m by no means as badly off as a lot of people. 
I know you’re a very busy man and I don’t expect a reply, I just needed to offload. I’m in tears just re-living this."
I'd like to thank my anonymous correspondent for getting in touch and telling her story. It is heartbreaking.

But it also has a twist.

How many former Subpostmasters have kept quiet about discrepancy problems at their Post Office, in order to sell them on and get out? Do the Post Office tell incoming Subpostmasters about previous balancing problems at a branch? Maybe not, because the Post Office position tends to be the faults are the faults of the Subpostmaster, so by that logic, the Subpostmaster leaves and the fault clears up.

What if the fault is down to an existing member of staff in the branch (eg as yet undetected theft or mis-keying)? Can the incoming Subpostmaster be obliged to take all existing branch staff on under TUPE rules? Or can the new Subpostmaster sack the existing staff all and install a new regime without breaking employment law?

If a working Subpostmaster or someone from the Post Office wants to write a response - anonymously if you would prefer - I'd like to hear it. Even if it is something along the lines of: "you were making mistakes, so tough cheese".

Please get in touch.