Post office manager Ann Shergold said she is disgusted with the punishment handed down to her former employee, who stole £23,000 from her business.

Karen Wordley, 51, admitted stealing the hefty sum from Calne Post Office.

She took the money over a six-week period in spring 2010 while her boss, Mrs Shergold, was off after having a hip replacement.

Wordley, of Whitehall Gardens, Calne, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, 200 hours community service and ordered to pay £1,200 compensation.

Mrs Shergold said she was angry at the sentence as it means Wordley will effectively earn £109 per hour for doing the community service, as she has not had to pay back the £23,000.

“I haven’t been able to talk to her since it all come out, so I don’t know why she did it,” said Mrs Shergold.

“I am just so annoyed, so angry about it. Giving her 200 hours community service is a joke. She is effectively being paid £109 an hour for it.”

Wordley had been working part-time at the post office, in the McColls store, in Phelps Parade. When Mrs Shergold was off work, the deception began.

Michael Hall, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court each member of staff had their own till drawer which usually contained a float of around £5,000.

Wordley managed to inflate the amount stored in her drawer to between £20,000 and £30,000.

She then took the £23,000 excess home with her when a temporary supervisor was in charge and reported a discrepancy when her boss returned.

She initially denied any wrongdoing but pleaded guilty in court last month.

She submitted a basis of plea saying she had seen a colleague inadvertently move some money and it was overlooked, which gave her the idea of how to steal.

Mark Ruffell, defending, said his client gave in to temptation after a lifetime of scrimping and saving. He said she brought up her children singlehandedly and was used to going round the supermarket with a calculator to ensure she didn’t overspend.

Mrs Shergold said she felt betrayed by someone she thought was her friend.

“We are a small team, there are only four or five of us,” she said. “We were friends outside of work as well as at work.

“It was a breach of trust, but I am not going to punish other people for her mistakes.”

Wordley was later employed by Waitrose, Chippenham, and was suspended on full pay while the case was ongoing. The store refused to say whether she was still an employee.