Post Office chairman sacked by Business Sec Badenoch after 'rows' in wake of public outcry of Horizon scandal

27 January 2024, 19:58 | Updated: 27 January 2024, 22:29

Post Office chairman Henry Staunton has been sacked from his role by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch - after weeks of public criticism of the company's handling of the Horizon IT scandal which saw sub-postmasters wrongly jailed.
Post Office chairman Henry Staunton has been sacked from his role by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch - after weeks of public criticism of the company's handling of the Horizon IT scandal which saw sub-postmasters wrongly jailed. Picture: Getty/Parliament

By Chay Quinn

Post Office chairman Henry Staunton has been sacked by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch after rows between Government and the publicly-owned company in the wake of renewed focus on the Horizon scandal.

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Mr Staunton will depart from the role following a phone call with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch on Saturday, it was announced earlier.

Badenoch will replace him after tensions between the Post Office and the Government in recent weeks following a public outcry about the Horizon scandal which saw 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses wrongly prosecuted due to a faulty IT system.

Read More: MP warns of potential ‘second scandal’ over ‘faulty’ Post Office IT system

Read More: Fujitsu vows to compensate victims of Post Office Horizon IT scandal

One insider added that there were several sources of tension between the institutions in the wake of renewed scrutiny regarding the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Rows had broken out between the Post Office and Government in recent weeks - one of which focussed on the appointment of a senior director role which was due to become vacant.

Other tensions emerged over mistaken bonuses paid to Post Office chief executives and co-operation or lack thereof with the Horizon inquiry.

They agreed to "part ways with mutual consent" and an interim will be appointed "shortly", the Department for Business and Trade said.

Mr Staunton only took up the post at the state-owned company in December 2022, following nine years as chairman of WH Smith.
Mr Staunton only took up the post at the state-owned company in December 2022, following nine years as chairman of WH Smith. Picture: Parliament TV

Mr Staunton only took up the post at the state-owned company in December 2022, following nine years as chairman of WH Smith.

He had been tasked with leading the board of directors as the business reels from the fallout of what has been described as the UK's biggest miscarriage of justice.

More than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses were prosecuted by the Post Office after faulty accounting software Horizon made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

The saga prompted an outcry across the country after it was dramatised in the ITV series Mr Bates Vs The Post Office earlier this month.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

A Government spokesperson said: "In a phone call earlier today, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade and Henry Staunton, chair of Post Office Limited (POL), agreed to part ways with mutual consent.

Cabinet Meeting in Downing Street
Cabinet Meeting in Downing Street. Picture: Getty

A Government spokesperson said: "In a phone call earlier today, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade and Henry Staunton, chair of Post Office Limited (POL), agreed to part ways with mutual consent.

"An interim will be appointed shortly and a recruitment process for a new chair will be launched in due course, in accordance with the Governance Code for Public Appointments."

The Business Secretary said: "The Post Office is rightfully under a heightened level of scrutiny at this time. With that in mind, I felt there was a need for new leadership, and we have parted ways with mutual consent."

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