Post Office chair sacked over governance issues

  • Business Advice
Post Office chair sacked over governance issues
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In the latest fallout from the Horizon accounting scandal, the business secretary has forced out Henry Staunton, chairman of the Post Office after just one year in service

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch announced the decision over the weekend, citing concerns about governance at the Post Office and responding to criticism of the board’s decision to pay bonuses to senior directors despite the failure to resolve the sub-postmasters’ claims for compensation.

Staunton, 75, was appointed as chairman in December 2022 with annual remuneration of £150,000, replacing Tim Bell who had resigned earlier that year in September.

He joined the Post Office from WH Smith where he was chairman, and he also had a non-executive director role at Capital & Counties Properties. He started his senior management career as finance director at Granada TV in the 1990s and was instrumental in the merger of Granada and Carlton. He was also a board director at ITV until 2006.

Accountant Staunton is a former partner of Price Waterhouse (now PwC) which he joined in 1970.

When he was appointed the Post Office said Staunton had ‘extensive experience in leading and contributing to boards and holding executive management teams to account, both as a chair and a non-executive director’.

In an interview with the BBC, Badenoch said: ‘Looking at the governance around the Post Office, that is where I decided that we needed a new chair of the organisation. It just wasn’t working.

‘There were various disagreements within the board and when I looked at it, I thought that a change of personnel was what was required.

‘We needed someone who was able to deal with these things effectively.’

The sudden decision to remove Staunton raised questions about the extent of the governance issues at the Post Office.

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow business secretary also told the BBC: ‘The scale of the scandal is so vast it’s absolutely essential the right leadership is in place. The government have to tell us why they made this decision, as the person that’s going wasn’t in post during the Horizon scandal so there must be specific reasons why they don’t have confidence in that person.’

An interim chair of the board is set to be appointed soon by the government.

There are also calls for Nick Read, the CEO Post Office to resign. The former Vodafone chief has been with Post Office since 2019. He appeared before the Business and Trade Committee earlier this month and admitted that dividends were paid out at the height of the Horizon accounting scandal. However, he was not in the job at the height of the scandal so failed to answer some of the MPs’ most probing questions.

The CEO at the time was Paula Vennells and she is yet to appear before the statutory enquiry into Horizon. She was recently pressured to hand back her CBE, received while heading up the Post Office.  

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