Post Office plans to 'offer board seats' to postmasters

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
A pedestrian wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, passes a Post Office in the City of London on December 29, 2020, as UK businesses and individuals learn to follow new rules after the UK leaves the European Union. - New rules come into force over the sending of parcels to the EU (European Union) in a post-Brexit world. Any parcel being sent from England, Scotland or Wales to an EU country should have a customs declaration form attached to it from today, December 29. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
In December, six former sub-postmasters had fraud convictions linked to a faulty computer system quashed in court. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Seeking to draw a line under the IT scandal that rocked its business and sent managers to prison, the Post Office is set to outline plans to give board seats to two postmasters.

According to reports by Sky News on Sunday, the company is on the cusp of announcing a new process to keep watch over the board appointments process.

Citing sources close to the Post Office, Sky reported that James Lowman, head of the Association of Convenience Stores, Co-op Group finance director Shirine Khoury-Haq and Institute of Directors council member Jean Church would shepherd appointments.

In December, six former sub-postmasters had fraud convictions linked to a faulty computer system quashed in court.

The long-running scandal began when the Post Office installed a new computer system that led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being wrongly convicted.

Having a criminal record put many of those affected in dire financial circumstances.

The Horizon system, developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, was first rolled out in 1999 to some post offices to be used for a variety of tasks including accounting and stocktaking.

But from an early stage, it appeared to have significant bugs which could cause the system to misreport, sometimes involving substantial sums of money.

It was difficult for sub-postmasters to challenge errors because they were unable to access information about the software to do so.

After more than 900 prosecutions, 550 sub-postmasters raised civil actions against the Post Office which agreed to pay £58m ($79.3m) damages.

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The also news comes following other rumoured changes in the business. At the beginning of December, it was reported that Shell (RDSA.L) was in exclusive talks to acquire the Post Office’s broadband division in a deal that would transform its presence in the communications sector.

The deal is expected to cost Shell less than £100m and will likely take weeks to finalise.

The Post Office’s broadband arm has around 500,000 customers.

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