The death knell has sounded for 22 of Oxfordshire's sub post offices - with the first to close as early as June 3.

Despite tireless community campaigning, Post Office Ltd offered no concessions to Oxfordshire and will now press ahead with axing all the branches first unveiled for the chop in February.

Branches were yesterday given four weeks' notice to wind down their operations.

Most of the 22 are expected to close by the end of the summer.

Last night Oxfordshire postmasters told the Oxford Mail the effects of the cull would be felt long after individual branches shut.

Mollie Ingrey, 53, who runs Stanton St John Post Office and Stores on the outskirts of Oxford with her husband Dennis, 57, said: "The hardest thing is we are not allowed to put any of our own machinery in until a year after the post office closes.

"That means we cannot put in a PayPoint or ATM for 12 months.

"A lot of people use the post office to withdraw cash, so I am sure a lot of small shops will find that very difficult.

"We are being held to ransom, in a way."

Mrs Ingrey, 53, said the bad news came via a single telephone call and a letter.

She said: "We have had no comments from them at all, no feedback on our consultation.

"We worked so hard with demonstrations and petitions, but there has been no feedback on the decision.

"Everyone has been absolutely gobsmacked. We really did think we had a good chance of staying open, because in other counties there have been one or two that were saved, but there was none here - it seems pretty harsh on Oxfordshire.

"The store will have to continue, we have put our life savings into this business and nobody would now want to buy it without a post office.

"The Post Office asked us at our interview for a five-year business plan, so you stupidly assume you have at least five years ahead of you.

"If anybody had any other way around this we would take it, but the Post Office has said that is it - and it looks final."

Dharmaraj Prasad, of Grandpont Post Office in Oxford, said compensation levels would vary depending on what services were offered and the experience of postmasters.

He said: "There will be compensation, but the unions will be negotiating that.

"For now, I am telling my customers they will have to go to other places for their services.

"It looks like I will close in the middle of June."

In March, the Oxford Mail personally delivered a 6,000-signature petition and 150 letters to Downing Street in protest at the plans.

Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith gave the campaign his backing and said "let's win this one" - but his efforts failed to force an eleventh hour change of heart.

Shirley Goodchild of Postwatch, the consumer watchdog, said: "Postwatch scrutinised each of Post Office Ltd's proposals, encouraged customers to engage in the consultation process and worked to ensure Post Office Ltd took into account responses submitted.

"Post Office Ltd has also agreed to undertake a number of improvements to other post offices where required to enable them to handle additional business."

Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, added: "It is typical these closures should be announced after the local elections to prevent people being able to protest at the ballot box against the refusal of the Government to invest in these important public services."

Closure dates announced yesterday:

  • Ardington: June 11
  • Begbroke: To be confirmed
  • Childrey: Likely to be June 11
  • Combe: TBC
  • Crowmarsh: TBC
  • Dalton Barracks: TBC
  • Farmoor: TBC
  • Fyfield: Within three months
  • Grandpont: Mid-June
  • Grimsbury: June 6
  • Iffley: TBC
  • Villiers Road, Bicester: June 3
  • Long Wittenham: TBC
  • Orchard Way, Banbury: June 3
  • Stanmore Crescent, Carterton: August
  • Stanton St John: Early June
  • Upton: June 5
  • West End, Witney: TBC
  • Wolvercote: TBC
  • Wootton, near Woodstock: TBC
  • Wootton Road, Abingdon: TBC
  • Wytham: TBC