A POSTMISTRESS has closed her shop after refusing to spend hundreds of pounds of her own money on balancing the books.

Wendy Martin, who runs the branch in Crichton Avenue in Clifton, York, claims the Post Office's Horizon system, which is used for payment transactions for everything from lottery tickets to gas and electricity top-ups, is unable to cope with demand.

The experienced 44-year-old says the broadband connection regularly cuts out, which stops payments processed in the shop from being picked up by the company's internal system.

This has left Mrs Martin's business hundreds of pounds down at the end of the month and her covering the cash shortfall.

The claims are consistent with around 100 sub-postmasters who said they were wrongly prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of cash shortfalls arising from the same computer software.

They claimed the Post Office failed to investigate irregularities before launching civil and criminal procedures against employees.

However, no evidence had been offered to support the claims, according to the Post Office.

Mrs Martin is refusing to come up with the cash any more and has closed the shop until the connectivity problem is corrected by the company.

The self-employed post mistress, who has worked in various shops during an 18-year career says she fears the problem will only increase and could leave her paying in more money each month until the shop goes bust.

She told The Press: "The public feel I'm doing them a dis-service because the shop is shut but I could be in a situation where I may end up in prison.

"It costs me £400 just to keep the shop closed and if I keep putting in the money I will go bust.

"I hope the Post Office takes this seriously and come out to sort this, but until they do I'll have to stay shut."

Wendy Martin inside the branch

The postmistress first experienced problems shortly after the shop was refurbished at the beginning of this year and found a £249.10 discrepancy in March's takings.

This was followed by an £8.49 shortfall in April, but dismissed that as human error because it was so small and thought the problem had been sorted when a BT engineer repaired some wiring and the takings were £12 up in May.

However, the irregular figures returned in June with a £144 shortfall, a minus £195.61 taking in July and a £171.45 difference in August.

She added: "I know how the office works and this is not down to inexperience. It's not caused by human error."

Mark Baker, national branch secretary for post masters at the Communication Workers Union, said: "What's happening is the Post Office have put other equipment on the telephone line that should be for the sole use of the computer.

"What this needs is a central body to be aware of the failings of Horizon and fix it because Mrs Martin has been left for weeks on this system which works one day and doesn't work the next."

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We apologise to customers for temporary closure of the branch. We are liaising with the Postmistress regarding this matter.”