In 2010 I supported a campaign to prevent the closure of the well-used and well-loved Weston Park sub-Post Office – a lifeline for many older and less able locals.

Like many Ham&High readers, I watched excellent Mr Bates vs The Post Office drama on ITV and it occurred to me that the closure had possibly saved our wonderful postmaster Jim (and his partner) from the trauma shared by the thousands who were caught up in the Horizon Scandal.

Introduced in 1999 and hailed as robust and fail-safe, the 40,000 Horizon terminals allowed the transition from paper to electronic reconciliation of transactions.

Soon, reports started to emerge of errors and books not balancing. The Post Office’s response was despicable – it denied anything was wrong, isolated individuals, accused them of theft and launched criminal prosecutions to recover “lost” money and protect its reputation.

Subject to insanely unfair contracts, victims suffered anxiety, family breakdowns and ruined health. Hundreds wound up with criminal records and imprisonment: some even took their own lives.

The CEO of the Post Office for much of this time (2012-2019) was Paula Vennells (who has now handed back her CBE), who spent much of her time ensuring “reputation management”. Despite solid evidence of corporate lying and a massive cover-up, nobody from the Post Office or Fujitsu has yet been prosecuted.

Ham & High: David Winskill campaigned to save the Weston Park sub-Post OfficeDavid Winskill campaigned to save the Weston Park sub-Post Office (Image: David Winskill)

Weston Park was one of a clutch of closures in this part of north London. They were sacrificed during the complicated reconfiguration in advance of the privatisation of Royal Mail described by the Independent as a “garage sale to raise money".

These community-based services - also offering advice, signposting and community contact - were decimated to funnel trade into crown offices that were being readied for commercial franchising. The more footfall, the more sales opportunities to sell Post It notes and padded envelopes to customers standing forlornly in long queues.

There is no sign that the erosion of the network has stopped.

Crouch End will soon be down to its last bank and abandoned customers are being advised to use the Post Office for deposits and other basic services.

Assured access to postal and financial services should be seen as a social good and a fundamental right. Any political party that pledges to keep what is left, ensure they are readily available in every community and to explore how small, local service providers can be properly supported will have a winner on their hands.

  • David Winskill is a Crouch End campaigner