AN angry couple say their rural post office business has been plunged into chaos after its vital broadband service was cut off.
Wendy and Les Telfer’s post office in the village of Bellingham, Northumberland, has been out of service for 10 days because of the computer glitch.
They say they lost their business connection after BT engineers installed a new broadband service in the tenanted flat above the combined post office and newsagent’s shop in Parkside Place.
This has meant the Post Office’s Horizon IT system – which is used for a wide range of automated services and transactions – has been down since Monday, December 17. Mr and Mrs Telfer have been unable to pay out pensions or benefits, accept council tax payments and provide other services which rely on the broadband connection.
They say it has caused major problems for elderly residents and other local people, both in the village itself and in surrounding hamlets which rely on the Bellingham post office.
Yesterday Mr Telfer, 59, said: “It is beyond belief that BT can leave a village, and outlying places like Falstone, Kielder and Greenhaugh, like this for 10 days. The whole place is up in arms about it.”
Mrs Telfer, 59, who has been sub-postmistress since 2010, said: ”This has caused absolute chaos for us and virtually the only thing I have been able to do since December 17 is sell people stamps.”
The couple say the problem arose after BT installed broadband in the flat above their shop. They say they were assured by BT that the connection would not affect the post office’s broadband line.
However, its computers started to slow down and the service was lost completely on December 17. Mr Telfer said: ”BT sent an engineer out the next day and put a new phone line into the flat, but didn’t re-connect our broadband to the post office. We have been trying ever since to get something done, but we still have no idea when we will be back on.
“Without a broadband connection to run the computerised system there is no post office. We have lost a lot of business as a result of this, and have even had to lend a few people money out of our own pockets.”
Mrs Telfer said: ”We need broadband to do everything on the post office side of things, so all I can do is serve customers stamps while the system is off.
“It is literally shut down and quite a few people have not been able to pay their bills or get their pensions. A lot of elderly people rely on the post office because they don’t have bank accounts.
“I’ve lost a lot of business and I’m not getting paid either because of this. We are just waiting on BT to put things right, and we’re trying to hurry things up because it’s ridiculous.”
Last night a BT spokesman said: ”We are investigating this issue and seeking to resolve it within the next 24 hours.”