Former Post Office chairman ‘told not to focus on long-term issues by mandarin’

A senior civil servant is alleged to have told a former chairman of the Post Office not to focus on “long-term issues” and to protect his organisation’s finances, according to a report.

The report is likely to pile fresh pressure over ministers and their handling of the Horizon scandal and its related compensation scheme.

Henry Staunton, who was sacked last month from his role by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, is said to have been told during a meeting with Sarah Munby, who was then permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to “hobble” into the next general election.

According to a note written down after the January 2023 meeting by Mr Staunton and shared with The Times, the businessman alleges that Ms Munby, who is now permanent secretary at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), also advised him not to “rip off the band aid” in terms of the Post Office’s finances.

The report comes after Mr Staunton, a former chairman of retailer WH Smith, claimed over the weekend that he had been told to stall compensation payouts for postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal because of concerns about the cost heading into a general election.

South Korean President state visit to the UK
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Horizon IT scandal saw more than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

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

Both the Department for Business and Trade, which replaced BEIS, and DSIT have been approached for comment about Mr Staunton’s latest claims.

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