PENSIONERS are struggling to make ends meet after a post office's computerised payment system crashed.

All post offices are computerised - and Shepley Post Office transferred its services to broadband at the weekend to cope with the extra demands of the Government's changes to the payments system.

Shortly after, the computer crashed at the Station Road post office. British Telecom engineers are still trying to resolve the problem.

The Government has scrapped the old pension books and replaced them with a choice of direct debit into the person's bank account or a special pension card which can be used on the chip-and-pin principle at post offices.

Shepley pensioner Mrs Hannah Day, 86, said the problem was affecting hundreds of people in the village.

Even though people can use their pension cards at other post offices, the changes to the way benefits are paid has led to many post offices closing down.

This and bad weather - coupled with some pensioners' frail health - has caused chaos in Shepley.

Mrs Day said: "No doubt the Post Office has spent a fortune installing this new card system, yet it is worse than it was before.

"All we needed then was a book. Now if the computer doesn't work we don't get paid at all."

Shepley Post Office sub-postmaster John Gledhill said the situation was very frustrating.

"About 88% of pensioners in Shepley decided they did not want their pension paid into a bank account.

"I've had customers coming back each day, but I've not been able to pay them their pensions until the computer system is repaired. I don't know when that will be. We are in BT's hands."

It is thought the fault is underground, not in the post office.

The problem is also affecting disability payments, child benefit, personal finances and top-ups for mobile phones.

People cannot top up their Quantam gas cards either.

Mr Gledhill added: "Although the pension cards can be used at other post offices, it is difficult to reach them in this area. It's probably best for them to try to get into town on the bus, but that's far from ideal.

"We have a lot of very elderly pensioners in the village who rely on the personal service we can give them here and would be embarrassed to ask for the same help at a main post office where they do not know the staff.

"This has shown how vital a post office is to the local community."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions

revealed that pensioners can apply for pensions to be sent by Giro cheques through the post which they can then cash at post offices.

But she stressed: "There has to be a very valid reason for this and that's why it is available for those people who cannot manage either of the other two options."

A Post Office spokeswoman said: "We hope the problem will be resolved very soon and can only apologise to customers for the inconvenience."

She said people can nominate a trusted person such as a relative, friend or neighbour to collect their pension for them.

Anyone wanting more information on this should fill in form P6163 available from post offices or phone the Post Office helpline on 08457 223344.

Pensioners in Shepley can apply for an emergency payment of £20 from the village post office which is deducted from their pension payment.