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Charing residents, including comedian Vic Reeves and Nancy Sorrell, protest against closure of village post office

Residents came out in force to support a village postmaster who closed his post office branch after claiming he had 'been blamed' for an armed robbery.

Comedian Vic Reeves and his model wife Nancy Sorrell were among the 150 protesters waving placards outside Charing Post Office today, demanding the company supports sub-postmaster Jonathon Brenton.

Mr Brenton shut the branch last week after a lengthy dispute with Post Office Limited (POL) over security, contracts and pay.

Nancy Sorrell and Vic Reeves amongst the protesters in the village
Nancy Sorrell and Vic Reeves amongst the protesters in the village

The branch was targeted in 2012 by masked robbers brandishing knives who stole £2,000 in cash and Mr Brenton said despite the terrifying ordeal, the security has never been improved.

He said: "During this robbery the panic buttons failed and ever since I have been expected to work and live with substantial quantities of cash and stock on the premises in an unmonitored, unalarmed, deficient safe.

"I have felt vulnerable, on edge and unsafe in my own home. When you live on site it makes you terrified of every bump or noise for fear it’s someone else breaking in."

The safe and all valuable post office equipment has since been moved off site.

Residents are furious about the closure, with many elderly people unable to access their pensions, but a wave of support for Mr Brenton and his partner Nick Sutton has echoed throughout the community.

Mr Brenton said: "There has been a huge amount of support and we have had no negative comments. It has been extremely hard to come to this decision, but we have been bullied and we have to stand up for ourselves. I’m grateful that people respect that."

In an open letter to POL, which has been posted to the branch’s Facebook page, Mr Brenton also explains a dispute over pay reductions and contract changes that could see £12,000 of his annual pay slashed.

A host of residents joined the protest
A host of residents joined the protest

POL officials arrived at the branch today to begin talks with Mr Brenton about how the issues can be resolved.

Mr Brenton, who has been in charge of the village post office for five years, said: "Our branch serves 1,500 people a week, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable and I will work tirelessly to ensure that Post Office facilities return to Charing.

"We are trying to get some resolution but I am not willing to have significant contract alterations and pay cuts forced on me and to operate with no functional security system in the branch."

A young protester gets involved
A young protester gets involved

Charing Parish Council has organised transport by Wealden Wheels twice a week to Challock post office for people who are otherwise unable to get to an alternative branch.

The first free service left at 10.30am on Tuesday and will continue to run on Tuesday and Friday mornings at the same time during the closure.

Tylden Reed, Charing Parish Council chairman, said: "Jon and his partner Nick have provided a first-rate service to the village and are very popular.

Laura Tarling, POL Public Affairs Manager and Neil Ennis, Network Transformation Programme Director arrived for the meeting
Laura Tarling, POL Public Affairs Manager and Neil Ennis, Network Transformation Programme Director arrived for the meeting

"People are furious both about the sudden loss of the post office and the way that Jon appears to have been treated.

"The unannounced closure has caused untold personal difficulty to our residents. The whole situation is so unnecessary."

A Post Office spokesman said: "We are concerned by the situation and the loss of service and we are working to restore services as quickly as we can. We apologise to customers for any inconvenience."

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