Post Office sought double pay for chief executive

Former chairman Henry Staunton twice lobbied ministers to double Nick Read’s pay, MPs heard on Wednesday.
Post Office sought double pay for chief executive
Nick ReadHouse of Commons/UK Parliament

The former chairman of the Post Office twice asked for boss Nick Read’s pay to be doubled, MPs heard on Wednesday.

Henry Staunton was trying to prevent Mr Read from quitting the scandal-hit organisation.

However, the requests were refused, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said in response to an urgent question in the House of Commons.

It comes as hundreds of sub-postmasters wait for compensation as the long-running Horizon IT scandal continues.

Nick Read became chief executive of the Post Office in 2019 as the organisation dealt with the fall-out and declining revenues.

The latest figures show his salary for 2022-23 stood at £573,000, including bonuses.

The year before, he earned £816,000, of which £415,000 was salary and the rest bonus. This does reflect the fact he agreed to repay a £54,500 portion of his bonus that was linked to the Post Office’s participation in the official inquiry.

In the year 2020-21, he did not get a bonus, and was paid £415,000.

Even without being doubled, this salary looks high compared with the annual median UK wage of £34,963, while the average takings for sub-postmasters is lower.

However, the average award for FTSE 100 bosses stands at £3.81m per year.

Mr Staunton referred to the pay requests during a Commons Business Select Committee hearing on Tuesday, when he claimed that Nick Read had considered leaving his role on several occasions and was unhappy with his pay.

He said he went to speak to Mr Hollinrake after a pay request for Mr Read was signed off by the Post Office.

The Post Office has said that Mr Read never tendered his resignation.

MPs were also shocked, however, by the revelation from Mr Staunton that Mr Read was under investigation by the Post Office’s human resources department.

It came after MPs were told by witnesses earlier in the day that an internal investigation was under way into Mr Staunton over his alleged behaviour while he chaired the company.

‘Sub-postmasters the real priority’

During the hearing in Westminster, campaigner Alan Bates said that the bitter row that has broken out between government, Mr Staunton and the Post Office was a “distraction”, adding that the government needs to “get on and pay people”.

Mr Staunton was sacked from his post in January by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch who cited concerns about Post Office governance and “the entire business model”.

The row deepened when Mr Staunton hit back, saying he had been told to stall compensation payments for sub-postmasters to allow the government to “hobble into the election” – a claim that was denied by top civil servant Sarah Munby.

Ms Badenoch also hit back at the claims, saying they were “completely false”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Bates said financial redress for sub-postmasters is “the real priority”.

He slammed the Post Office as a “toxic organisation” that “cannot get its act together”, adding: “You hear about the bonuses at one end for the senior executives, and then you hear about distress funds for sub-postmasters who aren’t generating enough trade to earn a living.”

Alan Bates, former sub postmaster leaves Portcullis House on Tuesday

Getty Images

The former sub-postmaster led the campaign to expose the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, and has criticised the government for taking a long time to deliver compensation to those affected.

Mr Hollinrake said on Wednesday he wanted to pay compensation in “all cases ideally by the end of this year.”

However, lawyers acting for sub-postmasters recently said they expected victims to get full and final redress within one to two years.

Liam Byrne, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: “What we saw [on Tuesday] is, chaos, frankly, when what we need is a clarity of purpose about getting money out the door.”

He added that “at best, about 20%” of a budget of roughly £1-1.2bn for compensation for victims of the scandal had been paid out.

Mr Bates has also said that he believes the Post Office should be sold for a token £1 to a company such as Amazon.

“I’ve long thought that the Post Office as a business model is dead in the water… it needs huge investment”, as well as support for current sub-postmasters.

Mr Bates continues to campaign for all sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses affected by the Horizon software failure and for fair compensation from the government.

His two-decade fight inspired the recent ITV mini-series – Mr Bates vs the Post Office – which told the story of hundreds of sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were wrongly prosecuted after a faulty accounting system suggested money was missing from Post Office branches.

Mr Bates founded the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, and he and five others took the Post Office to the High Court in 2017.

On Tuesday, he also questioned the framing of money due to sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses under the GLO scheme as “compensation” due to the financial and emotional turmoil many have been put through.

“It’s not – it’s financial redress. This is money these people are actually owed and they’ve been owed it for years.

“Compensation sounds like something at the benefit, at the whim, of the government and all the rest of it… Let’s get it right and let’s really push forward on that aspect,” he added.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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