Independent retailers remain sceptical about the government's commitment to the Post Office network ­ despite this week's pledge that it will halt all "avoidable" closures of rural outlets. The package of measures unveiled by trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers is intended to provide income to replace the £400m the PO network will lose when benefit payments are paid direct to bank accounts in 2003. But Londis chief executive Graham White said: "If you can cut through the hyperbole to the specifics it could be of benefit to our stores which have post offices, but it looks like typical Labour spin. "It seems like more backtracking and vote catching and it's not going to keep me awake at nights. "I want to see the colour of their money." T&S Stores has 300 outlets with post offices. Its group retail director Graham Maguire said: "This looks good politically but it smells bad. "To make it work they will have to subsidise a lot of the sub post offices which will then compete with the economic ones." Bill Ellis, independent sales director at Palmer and Harvey McLane, said: "The government has proposed necessary financial support' for this project. "That in itself begs a number of questions ­ starting with when, where, who and how? It will be important for them to work closely with the independent sector. There's much much more in the economics of running a successful neighbourhood store than a cyberlink to a city bank." Costcutter's sales and development director David Thompson said: "On the face of it, it appears the government has bowed to public pressure, but I fear high casualties are inevitable. I doubt this tentative proposal is substantial enough to drive footfall back into the shops." {{NEWS }}