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Ex-Post Office chair claims government told him to delay compensation for postmasters until after the election


The Government has flatly denied claims by the former Post Office chairman that he was told to ‘stall’ on compensation ahead of the general election.

Henry Staunton left the role last month after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch insisted ‘new leadership’ was needed to tackle fallout from the Horizon IT scandal that saw hundreds of postmasters wrongfully prosecuted.

Mr Staunton, who took up the role in December 2022 following nine years as chairman of WH Smith, suggested that Whitehall wanted to hold back spending ahead of the election.

He told the Sunday Times: ‘Early on, I was told by a fairly senior person to stall on spend on compensation and on the replacement of Horizon, and to limp, in quotation marks – I did a file note on it – limp into the election.

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton claimed he was told to 'stall' on compensation ahead of the general election

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton claimed he was told to ‘stall’ on compensation ahead of the general election

There has been a national wave of anger about the scandal since postmasters' long fight for justice was highlighted by a major ITV drama

There has been a national wave of anger about the scandal since postmasters’ long fight for justice was highlighted by a major ITV drama

‘It was not an anti-postmaster thing, it was just straight financials. I didn’t ask, because I said ”I’m having no part of it – I’m not here to limp into the election, it’s not the right thing to do by postmasters”.

‘The word ”limp” gives you a snapshot of where they were.’

There has been a national wave of anger about the scandal since postmasters’ long fight for justice was highlighted by a major ITV drama.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We utterly refute these allegations.

‘The Government has sped up compensation to victims, and consistently encouraged postmasters to come forward with their claims.

‘To suggest any actions or conversations happened to the contrary is incorrect. In fact, upon appointment, Mr Staunton was set concrete objectives, in writing, to focus on reaching settlements with claimants – clear evidence of the Government’s intent.

‘The Secretary of State asked Henry Staunton to step down as chairman of the Post Office because a change in leadership was needed.’

More than 700 branch managers were prosecuted by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015 after faulty Horizon accounting software made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

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.

Rishi Sunak also announced blanket legislation to exonerate those wrongly prosecuted in the wake of public outcry.

Mr Staunton left the role last month after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch (pictured) insisted 'new leadership' was needed to tackle fallout from the Horizon IT scandal

Mr Staunton left the role last month after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch (pictured) insisted ‘new leadership’ was needed to tackle fallout from the Horizon IT scandal



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