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Elmsett Post Office, between Ipswich and Hadleigh, to shut after pay row

The owners of a village store have revealed that they have been forced to shut their post office after a 12-month pay dispute left them struggling to keep the vital community service going.

Julian Edwards and Sasha Lawrence, who have run Elmsett Post Office and Stores, between Ipswich and Hadleigh, since April 2021, said they will have to cease post office services from November 3.

It was not a decision they made lightly, Sasha said, but after a pay cut last year, the couple found themselves paying for the upkeep of the post office out of their own pockets.

Julian Edwards and Sasha Lawrence run Elmsett Post Office and Shops -- but have been forced to close its post office. Picture: Sasha Lawrence
Julian Edwards and Sasha Lawrence run Elmsett Post Office and Shops -- but have been forced to close its post office. Picture: Sasha Lawrence

Sasha said the battle with Post Office Ltd over pay was demoralising and the firm’s unwillingness to improve pay left the couple with little choice but to sever a vital community need.

“It’s horrendous,” she said. “The village is full of people who are disenfranchised or elderly people, who cannot or will not use online banking – unable to travel to do withdrawals.

“The whole situation is frustrating and makes us angry.

“You wouldn’t expect a a bank teller to work for minimum wage, let alone a bank manager.”

However, Post Office Ltd said it would continue to work closely with the business, and said improvements have been made this year to remuneration rates.

During a presentation to Elmsett Parish Council, Sasha said remuneration from Post Office Ltd dropped to between £1,200 and £1,300 last year – and claimed the pair were working for less than minimum wage.

She told SuffolkNews: “It’s with very heavy hearts that we’ve had to close. The situation is adding undue stress in what has already been a very tough period.

“This will not only affect elderly or vulnerable people in the area, but also businesses, who put in and take out of the post office.

“We considered what we would do with it for a while, and tried to assess what the impacts would be. We were a real community hub and put them at our centre, which was important since the pub next door closed during Covid.

“However, Julian has been ill and require open heart surgery. We concluded that, with the increased stress and costs, we couldn’t do this anymore.”

Sasha said the couple petitioned Post Office Ltd for help – which gained hundreds of signatures.

Despite the post office shutting, the store will remain open, which continues to increase its revenue.

Sasha said it employs people from the area, and its suppliers are also based nearby, as far afield as Colchester.

They also do free deliveries of bread, pastries and fruit boxes.

Sasha described the shop as community-focused, and she urged residents to support their local businesses.

She estimated the closure of the post office would result in a loss of 10 per cent of its customers – and that, if it would have had a massive impact on the business, they would not have shut.

A Post Office spokesman said: “As with other high street retailers, Post Offices are facing a particularly challenging period.

“The Postmaster for Elmsett Post Office has resigned, however, details are not yet finalised and we will continue to work very closely with the Postmaster to try to retain the service for the community.”

“This year improvements have been made to the remuneration rates for Postmasters including increases to banking remuneration and inflation linked increases for parcels and stamps.

“Post Office area managers regularly discuss ways to improve the efficiency of a business with postmasters to help reduce overheads and boost business. We are currently discussing some options with the postmaster which may benefit the branch.”