Post Office News

November 18th, 2022 – Reballot’ of POL members shows determination to win a fair deal remains as strong as ever

Our Post Office members will once again be taking strike action at Crown Offices, Admin and Cash Centres & Supply Chain depots unless bosses sit down with the CWU and negotiate a fair pay deal, warned the union’s acting DGSP Andy Furey, after the workforce voted by a 91.24 per cent majority for further strikes.

The ‘reballot’ had been called in accordance with the law, under which industrial action ballots ‘expire’ after six months – the first ballot of Post Office workers having taken place back in March. Six days of strikes had taken place under the original mandate, with the most recent on 28th September.

Around 1,400 workers have been in dispute with the Post Office over pay, which was frozen for the 2021/22 period and although an offer was made for 2022/23, it has been rejected by staff as being inadequate, the 5 per cent on the table falling well below current inflation levels which have risen over 14 per cent (RPI). This despite the organisation posting profits of £74 million over the past two financial years.

Reacting to the ballot result, Andy Furey thanked members for their continued support and said: “I will be writing to Nick Read, CEO, seeking an urgent meeting with the aim of putting in place talks to reach an agreement. It’s time for Mr Read to listen to his workforce and act accordingly by entering negotiations aimed at reaching a decent settlement to this dispute.”

While continuing to make every effort at achieving a resolution through negotiation, Andy also reminded the Post Office that, if no progress is made, industrial action will resume, saying: “We’re convening a special meeting of our Postal Executive next week to consider next steps in respect of future action. Everybody knows there’s more than enough money for a reasonable pay rise and it’s time for those at the top of the Post Office to show real respect for dedicated public servants who, as key workers, provided unprecedented customer service during the pandemic.

“The determination of these people – whose efforts generated millions of pounds in profit – hasn’t swayed, and they won’t accept their living standards being smashed.

“We urge management to see sense, get into real negotiations and cut a fair deal to avert strikes.”

The ballot also returned a very large majority for ‘action short of a strike’, which means that there could be a variety of industrial action tactics by the union going forward.

November 15th, 2022 – Post Office – Pay Dispute – Post Office workers – VOTE YES, YES

FRESH BALLOTS FOR BOTH STRIKE ACTION AND ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE – VOTE YES & YES
We need everyone to return their ballot paper to clear the legal threshold of 50%+ in terms of turnout.
It is also vital you VOTE YES on both questions.

ANGELA WILLIAMS, CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, SAYS POST OFFICE CAN’T AFFORD A DECENT PAY RISE
You will have received a letter from Angela Williams, the “Interim” Chief People Officer waxing lyrical about the Post Office’s tale of woes about affordability. The Post Office in fact made a healthy profit of £74m for the last two years (£35m for 2020/21 and £39m for 2021/22). This means they can afford to give you a good pay rise. Everyone knows the real reason you didn’t get a pay increase in 2021/22 wasn’t about affordability, it was because of the targets linked to managers’ bonuses.

If Post Office didn’t hit these targets (and giving you a pay rise would have meant
targets were missed) managers wouldn’t have received their healthy bonuses – so you lost out.
Angela also goes on to say “Ours is the largest pay offer that Post Office has made since separation from Royal Mail”. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. The 5% plus the one-off lump sum of £500 in reality covers TWO
YEARS – 2021/22 and 2022/23. Therefore, it is not the largest pay offer since separation and Angela is being naïve if she thinks you will be hoodwinked by this spin. Our original strike ballot expired on 28th September. We are therefore running two fresh ballots, WITH A CLOSING DATE OF 17TH NOVEMBER.

There are two questions on the ballot paper:
ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE PART IN STRIKE ACTION?
ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE PART IN ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE?
Unbelievably, Angela then says Post Office “cannot make any more increased offers” as it “is the most we can afford whilst still successfully achieving our strategic goals…..”. These “goals” include improved remuneration for Postmasters (which of course they fully deserve) but also “new Branch technology”
to replace the Horizon system which has caused so much misery to so many for so long. It is clear Horizon compensation payments to be received by those impacted by the scandal is now affecting the directly employed people. Essentially, you are paying for the mistakes of Post Office management,
which is totally unacceptable.
Finally, Angela Williams is actually working as the Group People Director for Corsearch, but kept her
part-time “Interim” role at Post Office (it was announced on 9th November that she will be replaced
by Jane Davies, from 1st December). Angela is also non-Executive Group Chair of Northcoders PLC and
Non-Executive Director of ANDIGITAL Limited, and Sovereign Housing Association*. There is an irony that
you are being told by Angela to tighten your belt and expect an insulting pay increase, when she will have
been paid significant monies by Post Office, along with income from her other 4 jobs.
It is vital you show Nick Read these double standards aren’t acceptable by voting YES & YES in the ballot. UNITY IS STRENGTH – VOTE YES & YES

“If you haven’t voted yet, do it today – vote YES to strike action and vote YES to action short of a strike,” says acting DGSP Andy Furey, in a final push to maximise the turnout in the fresh ballot being held among Post Office members in the long-running pay dispute.

Wednesday 28th September – Post Office – Pay Dispute 2021/22: Strike.

Following a breakdown in talks at Acas, the Postal Executive has authorised strike action for Wednesday 28th September – this is the last day action can be taken with the current mandate.  On this occasion, the strike action will involve all members employed by Post Office in Admin, Crowns & Supply Chain.

This action is clearly also necessary as there is still no movement on the pay freeze position for 2021/22. The Post Office can afford to provide our members with a fair increase for this period yet they are simply choosing to suppress pay despite our members as Key Workers being at risk throughout the Pandemic whilst ensuring Post Office services were maintained to society.

It should be noted Post Office had no trouble finding money to pay every manager a bonus in August. Indeed the financial target to trigger bonus payments was achieved by imposing a pay freeze (the target would have been failed had a normal pay rise been paid).  It follows self-motivated Directors have been more concerned by ensuring managers’ bonuses are paid than providing a much needed pay rise for the lowest paid workers in Post Office.

The Postal Executive is fully cognisant of the fact that once the lifespan of the ballot has expired we will have to re-ballot our members.  Consideration will now be given to this in conjunction with our Reps with further developments in this regard being reported including a timetable for a new ballot.

The Executive also wishes to urgently to bring to the attention of our Post Office members this further strike day, which is necessary due to the dogmatic attitude of Nick Read CEO who according to the last published report and accounts for 2020/21 was paid £415k.

18th August – Post Office: Pay 2022/23 – Acas Talks.

Branches are advised Post Office has today improved the pay offer for 2022/23 during the course of our discussions at Acas.  The revised offer, which has been rejected as being inadequate due to the cost of living emergency is:

  • 5% pay increase (up from the previous offer of 3%) for all grades from 1st April 2022 flowing through to all allowances and overtime rates
  • £500 one-off lump sum (unconsolidated) for all grades (including part-timers) presented by Post Office as being in recognition of the escalating cost of living.

The above development is evidently progress, nevertheless we remain in dispute over the pay freeze position for 2021/22.  In overall terms, the offer is insufficient for what amounts to a two year period.  In simple terms, the offer is not even half the current rate of inflation (RPI for July was 12.3%), which is forecast to continue rising in the coming months; hence the reason for rejecting the improved offer.

Post Office has also agreed to meet again at Acas next week at a date and time to be confirmed.  Hopefully further progress can be made. I would encourage Reps and Branches to bring this latest position to the attention of our Post Office members.
Further developments will be reported.

14th July – Admin & Supply Chain Strike.

Our Admin & Supply Chain members will be on strike (third occasion). From all reports received we are anticipating another excellent response from members who understandably are angry with the dismissive attitude of Post Office. To put this into perspective, Post Office are quick to self-publicise how much money is transacted across the Post Office network each month. Only this week they have highlighted cash deposits and withdrawals for June remained steady at over £3 billion and this was the fourth successive month where over £3 billion had been transacted.

Clearly Post Office is making a lot of money on the back of “cash”. Indeed the statistics above are important as our Crew members primarily deliver and collect these monies from Post Offices supported by our Cash Centre members who process significant volumes of cash. It follows that our members should be sharing in this success and their efforts should be recognised in a tangible way with a fair pay rise.

The bottom line is Supply Chain members provide vital support services for the 11,500 network of Post Offices with the transacting of cash integral to the long term viability. Without our members performing such an important support role, this, success wouldn’t happen. In essence Post Office can evidently afford to provide a decent pay rise but they are simply choosing not to do so. This situation is not lost on our members and that is why tomorrow’s strike is necessary.

11th July 2022 – Post Office Pay Dispute – ‘Most solid strike yet’ by Crown Post Office workers

CWU representatives around the UK report strengthening support for the union’s fair pay fight, with Crown Offices shut for the day and ‘good luck’ messages to pickets from the public…

Picket lines appeared at Post Offices across the UK today, as fed-up counter staff took their third day of strike action in their ongoing struggle to ensure they and their families get a fair reward for their hard work and dedication to the public, as well as a financial recognition of the harsh effects of the sharp rise in the cost of living. CWU News spoke with some of our CWU representatives from different parts of the country as they looked back on another day of industrial action.

“Today’s gone even better than I’d expected,” said Neil Barry, North West & North Wales Area rep for Post Office workers, after a morning’s picketing at Prestwich Post Office in Manchester. “Across my patch, although the Post Office have been using more managers to try to keep some offices open, there have actually been more staff on strike this time than the previous strike days.

“But even the offices where managers have been sent to, many of them have only managed to open for a limited time today – so the action is becoming more effective. Here at Prestwich, members of the public came up to the picket and stood chatting with striking staff saying they agreed with the action and that the management’s attitude was ‘just ridiculous’, which is very good for members’ morale.

“Massive appreciation to all our members on strike and for their support – we’re going to keep sticking together and fighting for a fair deal and now is the time for the Post Office to seriously sit down and negotiate properly with the CWU.”

Over in Leeds, North East Area rep Richard Titterington reported that “although we’ve had managers going in and doing our members’ work in some places, support for the strike among CWU grades is holding up very well across the Crowns in this Area and the determination to win a decent pay settlement is stronger now than when we started. So, a big thank you to members who’ve taken action.”

Richard also talked about the support from members of the public, saying that “people we spoke to understood what we are doing and why. There seems to be quite a general feeling that people are having to stand up and fight for a living really. Locally, we’ve had a three-week bus strike and so there is an increase in disputes and people are becoming affected by them and of the reasons for it.

“It’s good that people are coming together and showing solidarity – the cost-of-living crisis affects us all and members of the public have been positive and supportive towards us.”

London CWU Post Office reps Garrie Bond (West & Central) and Clive Tickner (North & East) also reported managers being drafted in to keep something of a skeleton service going at a minority of Crowns, in response to the solid walkouts by our members.

“I’ve been massively impressed by today and we’re keeping up the pressure in our fight for a fair deal,” said Garrie, who spent the morning at central London’s Eccleston Street Crown. The majority of Crowns within his Area closed today, while some were kept open for just a few hours. Clive led the picket at Kingsland High Street over on the other side of town, and his impression of today was that “the strike has held up very well – our members have been fantastic and all credit to them.”

Midlands Region secretary Mark Harper attended this morning’s picket at Matlock in Derbyshire, from where he told CWU News: “It was 100 per cent on strike today and it was great to show our solidarity with the striking staff up here in The Peaks,” while up in Scotland, there were “around 40 people at the Edinburgh City picket,” according to CWU Scotland No2 Branch secretary Gary Clarke.

“We had solidarity from other trade unionists and the office was 100 per cent closed for the day,” Gary added. And from Wales, CWU assistant regional secretary Mark Williams reported that Port Talbot Crown Office was “fully shut” by the action.

“Members’ morale is still high, they’re up for the fight and there’s overwhelming support from the public,” said Mark.

Our union’s national officer for Post Office workers Andy Furey said: “There’s been massive solidarity and unity today right across the country and I want to add my thanks and my admiration for the strength, courage and fortitude of our magnificent members.

“This has been the third strike in the past couple of months and there’s more action on the way this Thursday, when our CViT and Admin members will be walking out.”

Andy continued: “Fundamentally, Post Office needs to respect the needs of its employees who, as key workers, are estranged from the senior management. In essence, Nick Read CEO has lost the dressing room. The way back is to get around the negotiating table and thrash out a deal that our members can get behind.”

POST OFFICE – Pay Dispute 2021/22 – Official Strike Monday 11th July 2022 (Crowns).

The CWU has decided that further strike action is necessary as Post Office has thus far refused to move away from its pay freeze position for 2021/22.  Also, our members are being insulted with just a 3% pay offer for 2022/23, along with a £500 one-off lump sum payment.  The Postal Executive has therefore been left with no choice other than to serve notice for further action.

Today, the two-week legal notification has been served on Post Office for:

  • Monday 11th July – Crown members (not Admin & Supply Chain)

We are once again confident the dispute will be well supported by our Key Worker members who thoroughly deserve a fair and reasonable pay increase to help them cope with the soaring cost of living (inflation (RPI) for May rose to 11.7%).

Further Negotiations

We are scheduled to meet with management on Thursday 30th June where it is hoped meaningful progress will be made for both 2021/22 and this year.

To add insult to injury – Royal Mail tells cleaners: ‘No pay rise for you!’

Hundreds of workers who clean Royal Mail premises around the UK have been told they will receive no cost-of-living pay rise in this financial year if they were awarded a Real Living Wage (RLW) adjustment in April, directly contradicting a promise by the business not to link the two.

Coming out of talks with the senior leadership of Royal Mail’s Property and Facilities Solutions (P&FS) division today, CWU national officer Mark Baulch said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked. They made a formal commitment back in March, in writing and fully documented, that the RLW uplift would be applied outside of the formal pay talks and ‘without prejudice’ to the 2022/23 annual pay negotiations.

“Here we are, just over three months later and yet another Royal Mail promise has been wilfully broken – it’s an absolute disgrace. How can we have any confidence in these talks when they give their word only to break it in such a short time.” Read More here

Post Office: Pay Dispute 2021/22 – Revised Pay Offer Received & Rejected.

Following the successful strike action held on Tuesday 3rd May, the Postal Executive has authorised further strike action and the two-week legal notification has been served on Post Office today as follows:

  • Saturday 4th June – Crown members
  • Monday 6th June – Admin & Supply Chain members

Further strike action is necessary as Nick Read, CEO continues to blatently disregard the strong case for a pay rise for 2021/22 and the democratic voice of our members.  Our full-time IR Reps, along with the Supply Chain Unit Reps fully support the strike dates, which coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

At the latest meeting with regards to pay 2022/23, since the “interim” offer from Angela Williams, Group Chief People Officer dated 1st April 2022, was rejected, Lee Kelly, Employee Relations & Policy Director made a marginally revised offer as follows:

  • From 1st April 2021 – Pay Freeze (no change)
  • From 1st April 2022
    • 2.5% consolidated pay increase flowing through to all allowances (up from 2%)
    • One-off £500 lump sum payment (unconsolidated and non-pensionable) (revised from £250)

It was made clear to management that a legal trade dispute remains over the pay freeze for 2021/22 and that a fair and reasonable pay offer needs to be made to our Key Worker members to settle this dispute.

Additionally, for 2022/23, a 2.5% consolidated pay offer plus a £500 one-off lump sum is simply insulting to our members who are struggling to cope with a 40-year high inflation rate (RPI of 11.1% for April).  The offer was rejected as being woefully inadequate and we made it clear that a huge gap exists between us.  Post Office must considerably improve the offer if they wish to reach an agreement.  It is evident they can afford to make a more realistic offer, bearing in mind the declaration earlier this week of a £35m profit for 2020/21 financial year (during the pandemic).  Our Key Worker members contributed to this profit and deserve to share in this success.  With Post Office continuing with its unreasonable pay freeze position, we have been left with no choice other than to serve notice for further strike action.

The 40-year high for the cost of living, with inflation rising to 11.1% (April RPI) further strengthens our resolve in respect of securing a fair and reasonable outcome on behalf of our members.  We are therefore confident the dispute will be well supported by our members who, as Key Workers, worked throughout the pandemic and obviously deserve a fair pay rise.

Post Office: Pay Dispute 2021/22 – Strike Date – Tuesday 3rd May.

Union calls nationwide walkout against pay freeze, bringing out every Crown office in the UK and halting all cash collections and deliveries along with call centres and various admin workers in the fight for a fair deal…

“You provoked this strike, now it’s going to happen,” was CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey’s message to Post Office bosses today, after the union’s industrial executive formally authorised strike action to begin at the commencement of all shifts on Tuesday 3rd May. Every one of the UK’s 114 Crown Post Offices will close for a 24-hour period, and there will be no cash deliveries or collections from the 11,500 sub-post offices around the nation either – action that will severely impact everywhere.

The action is fully legal and follows the astonishing 97.3 per cent YES vote returned by the union’s Post Office members in the statutory strike ballot that was held during March – a reflection of the enormous anger felt by workers at the stubborn refusal of the Post Office to pay a wage rise for 2021/22.

“They have told us that they’re freezing pay in keeping with official government and public-sector pay policy,” says Andy. “But that’s an outrageous and dishonest excuse as the government’s austerity measures do not apply to the Post Office and it should be borne in mind that our members worked throughout the pandemic to provide essential services to the Great British public.

“The management want to have it both ways. They refuse to reward our members for their outstanding dedication to serving the Great British public through the worst public health emergency in living memory, but yet the also refuse to give our members their fair share of the profits that their hard work has created.

“It’s hypocrisy, it’s unprincipled and, with RPI inflation currently running at 9 per cent, a pay freeze is totally unacceptable. “That’s why our members are coming out on 3rd May – and unless the Post Office see sense and pay up, this will just be the first strike and other dates will follow.”

A Facebook session took place on 20th April with Chris Webb, Head of Communications, Engagement and Media and the recording of this event can be accessed via the following link: https://www.facebook.com/TheCommunicationsUnion/videos/398073428535019

17th February 2022 – Post Office pay dispute – ‘This is the fight – let’s have it!’.

Strike ballot campaign kicks off with lively national reps briefing in Birmingham…

“Chins up and chests out – this is the fight, let’s have it,” was the message from CWU deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger to the union’s Post Office Counters, Admin and Supply Chain reps, who gathered yesterday to plan the first steps of their strike campaign against the company’s pay freeze. Despite workers putting in extra efforts and taking on more duties throughout the pandemic, staying open to the public while bank branches closed; continuing to deliver cash and essential supplies to offices; and ensuring the UK continued to receive vital services; arrogant and out-of-touch Post Office bosses have continually refused to raise their pay over this past year.

New Year talks called by arbitration service ACAS failed to shift their stance and last month’s Postal Executive approved a request from assistant secretary Andy Furey to move towards a statutory strike ballot in accordance with the law. The Postal Executive has now moved to the second stage of the strike process by formally approving the timetable for this ballot, which will open on Monday 7th March and close three weeks later on Monday 28th March. And at yesterday’s briefing, Supply Chain unit and area reps; and Crown Office and Admin reps were joined by branch and regional secretaries as the ballot campaign plan was debated. Our DGSP Terry Pullinger opened the event with a rousing call to arms, reminding those present that their cause was absolutely justified and that the whole union is behind them in their struggle. “There’s a massive moral case here,” he told the meeting. “And the people running the Post Office have got no moral compass whatsoever. You worked throughout Covid, the same as the people in Royal Mail, and there’s a debt of honour here and that’s what this fight’s all about. “This is key workers getting dumped on. This is a row about a pay rise you should have had – you’re going into a huge fight, and we will do everything possible to back you. Read more »

“What we need is a massive turnout and a massive Yes vote. Let’s all get to work for this,” Terry urged.

17th February 2022 – Post Office: Horizon – BEIS Select Committee Interim Report & EDM 822.

Branches will recall the BEIS Select Committee launched an inquiry into Post Office and the
Horizon system in March 2020 which was described as examining “…the impact on subpostmasters, its effect on the future viability of the Post Office, and examine the lessons
the Government and Post Office Ltd have learned from a scandal.” We submitted both
written and oral evidence to the inquiry; however, the second session of the inquiry
scheduled for 26th March 2020, which was which was due to hear evidence from
Paula Vennells, former CEO, Nick Read, current CEO, Fujitsu, the Minister and BEIS and
UKGI officials was postponed due to Covid-19. The Committee continued to receive written
evidence. Read more »

26th August 2021 – Postmasters – have your say on Horizon and the way forward.

CWU launches nationwide survey to ensure frontline members’ voices are heard loud and clear in Sir Wyn Williams’s Judicial Inquiry into the Horizon scandal…

“We want as many postmasters as possible to take part in this process,” says CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey after sending out a key communication to people running this essential service in every part of the UK. Read more »

24th April 2021 – Convicted Post Office workers have names cleared in Horizon computer system scandal.

Judges have quashed the convictions of 39 former postmasters after the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice. They were convicted of stealing money, with some imprisoned, after the Post Office installed the Horizon computer system in branches. The system was flawed. Some of those whose lives were ruined now want those responsible to be “punished”. The judgement was met with cheers from ex-postmasters outside court and was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He called the original convictions an “appalling injustice”.
The clearing of the names of 39 people follows the overturning of six other convictions in December, This means more people have been affected than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK.

From the BBC Website

The CWU are Supporting Justice for Postmasters. Read more »

1st April 2021 – Post Office members back pay deal – set for big April payout.

Hard-working Post Office members will see significant increases to pay this month, following their approval of a deal combining an across-the-board rise with variable bonus consolidations and lifting guaranteed wages by between 4.7 and 7.1 per cent.

In a big show of support for the union, members voted by a 97 per cent majority to endorse the package, which will now be paid into their end-of-April salaries.

POST OFFICE: PAY AGREEMENT – 97% YES VOTE

YES VOTES in favour of the pay agreement92097%
NO VOTES against the agreement253%
TURNOUT62%

And, this being their ‘2020’ pay deal, payments are also fully backdated to April 1st 2020. Reacting to the ballot return, CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey says that he was “extremely pleased by the positive response from members and I thank them for their exceptional work over this past year and for their remarkable patience while we’ve been getting this deal done.

“It’s an innovative pay agreement reached after lengthy negotiations with Post Office senior management that brought several different bonus schemes into pensionable pay and transformed a modest settlement into a much better overall package.” Another key aspect to this deal is the improvement to members’ defined contribution pension scheme, in particular the introduction of a higher ‘maximum tier’ of 8 per cent employee and 12 per cent employer.

“We want to encourage all members to take advantage of this new opportunity to have 20 per cent of pay put into their pension pot,” continues Andy, who advises members to send their requests to the company’s specific pensions email address using their own Post Office email accounts.

Now that ‘2020’ is settled, Andy and his senior negotiating team are immediately turning their attention to the 2021 claim.  “We are now putting this claim together and intend to submit our proposals for approval to the CWU postal executive – and then we’ll formally submit the claim to the employer,” he explains. “We will be looking to conclude the 2021 pay agreement much more quickly than 2020. Hopefully, the Post Office will share this aspiration and will engage in negotiations in a meaningful way from the outset.”

2nd October – Justice for postmasters with more Horizon humiliation for shamed Post Office boss

Former postmasters hailed another step towards justice today, when shamed Post Office bosses announced they will not contest the vast majority of Horizon-related convictions that were sent to the Appeal Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

The CCRC sent 39 cases to the Court of Appeal back in March and a further eight in June, after considering the convictions in each instance.

And today’s humiliating climbdown by those running Post Office Limited means that more than 44 of the 47 cases sent to the Court of Appeal will not now be contested.

Reporting the breakthrough earlier, BBC finance correspondent Kevin Peachey Post Office scandal: Postmasters celebrate huge victory against convictions interviewed Jo Hamilton and Seema Mistra – two postmasters who learned today that the full quashing of their convictions is now within sight. Read more »

11th June 2020 – Post Office: Horizon Scandal – Independent Review and EDM 593

Branches and members will hopefully have had the opportunity to watch Monday night’s Panorama show “Scandal at the Post Office” in which the journalist Nick Wallis investigated what the BBC described as “what could be Britain’s biggest ever miscarriage of justice scandal” with “evidence of a cover-up at the Post Office”. The hard-hitting programme highlighted the cases of several former Postmasters who have suffered terribly after being falsely accused and convicted of theft and/or false accounting. In addition, the BBC Radio 4 Programme – “the Great Post Office Trial” featured the harrowing stories of several more ex Postmasters who were wrongly dismissed and in some cases convicted for accounting shortfalls.
Following the Panorama show, we published a web story which can be accessed via the link below:
https://www.cwu.org/news/bbcs-panorama-brings-horizon-scandal-into-the-public- eye/

Government Announcement – “Independent Review” into Horizon Scandal

The CWU has been calling for a Judge-led independent public inquiry into this national scandal and we thought we had secured this following the commitment given by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 26th February in response to a question from Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow.
Yesterday, Paul Scully MP, Small Business and Postal Affairs Minister announced there would be an “Independent Review” into the Horizon scandal, although it should be noted this will not be led by a Judge. The Chair (who has not yet been appointed) will though be independent of the Post Office and government.

The statement from Paul Scully was as follows:

“I am today announcing the scope of the Independent Review into the Post Office Horizon IT System and Trials which the Prime Minister committed to on 26th February 2020. This followed Post Office Ltd reaching a settlement, in December 2019, of £57.75m to conclude a long-running case brought against it by a group of postmasters over issues related to Post Office’s Horizon IT system…

Government wants to be fully assured that through the review there is a public summary of the failings that occurred at Post Office Ltd, drawing on the judgments from the Horizon case and by listening to those that have been most affected; that lessons have genuinely been learned; and that concrete changes have taken place at Post Office Ltd to ensure that this situation will never be repeated. For these reasons Government has decided to establish an Independent Review.

The Independent Review shall:

Understand and acknowledge what went wrong in relation to Horizon, leading to the Group Litigation Order, by drawing on evidence from the Horizon judgments and affected postmasters’ experiences and identify what key lessons must be learned for the future;

Assess whether the Post Office Ltd has learned the lessons from the criticisms made by Mr Justice Fraser in the “Common Issues” and “Horizon Issues” trials and those identified by affected postmasters and has delivered or made good progress on the organisational and cultural changes necessary to ensure a similar case does not happen in the future;

Assess whether the commitments made by Post Office Ltd within the mediation settlement – including the historical shortfall scheme – have been properly delivered;

Assess whether the processes and information provided by Post Office Ltd to postmasters are sufficient to i) enable both parties to meet their contractual obligations; and ii) to enable postmasters to run their businesses. This includes assessing whether Post Office Ltd’s related processes such as recording and resolving postmaster queries, dispute handling, suspension and termination are fit for purpose. In addition, determine whether the quality of the service offer for postmasters and their relationship with Post Office Ltd has materially improved since the conclusions by Mr Justice Fraser; and

Examine the governance and whistleblowing controls now in place at Post Office Ltd and whether they are sufficient to ensure that the failings that led to the Horizon case issues do not happen again.

The Review will be led by an independent chair who will be announced in due course alongside final timings and terms of reference for the Review.

The Review shall set out Post Office Ltd’s actions in response to the findings of Mr Justice Fraser. While avoiding a re-examination of the findings made by Mr Justice Fraser through the lengthy court proceedings, it must use these and the experiences of affected postmasters as the basis for its work. The Review should not encroach on the work of the Criminal Case Review Commission and the Court of Appeal. The Review should make any recommendations it sees fit, including actions that may, in its view, be appropriate as a result of its findings. The final report will be laid in the Libraries of both Houses upon completion of the review.

In a news story to accompany the above, Paul Scully stated “We are keen to see the review launch as soon as possible, and the publication of draft terms of reference today is an important step toward this.”

Clearly this is a step in the right direction; however in our view it does not go far enough. Our real concern is there will be an inadequate outcome and follow-up to the review’s recommendations which will not be binding on government. Indeed it is not clear who will be responsible for the actions of the review’s findings and we obviously wouldn’t want the final report to be merely “laid in the Libraries of both Houses” gathering dust.

Urgent Question Session – Horizon – House of Commons, 10th June 2020

Yesterday an urgent Question session took place in the House of Commons just after PMQs, brought about by Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister for Digital, Science and Technology. The question was as follows:

“To ask the Secretary of State…. what steps the Government is taking to support sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal”

Chi Onwurah described the Horizon scandal as “the largest miscarriage of justice in our history” and insisted “We need an inquiry not simply to learn lessons but to get to the truth. Only a Judge-led inquiry can do that with the Post Office compelled to cooperate. Will the minister now agree to the Judge-led inquiry we need? It is the very least the victims deserve. We need answers not more delay. We will not rest until we get this and justice for all those wronged in this scandal”.

The question session lasted for just over an hour and the Minister Paul Scully was given a particularly difficult time in regards to his decision not to appoint a Judge to lead an inquiry into the Horizon scandal but instead to launch an independent review. There was a barrage of questions urging the Minister to reconsider and deliver a proper Judge-led inquiry, with almost 20 MPs across all parties calling for this.

A link to the recording of the session is as follows:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000kbft/house-of-commons-postmaster- convictions-urgent-question

During the session there were also calls for all Postmasters to be compensated properly given that all bar £11m of the £58m settlement for those 557 Postmaster involved in the Group Litigation Order will go towards legal costs.

Also, there were calls for former Senior Post Office executives to be questioned with Jerome Mayhew, Conservative MP for Broadland stating “One of the great frustrations to date has been the refusal of the former senior management of the Post Office to answer detailed questions on this issue and to be held to account. Will …. individual culpability of senior management figures within the Post Office be part of this review?”.

Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull East, who featured in the Panorama show and has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal stated “Many hundreds of Postmasters were forced to pay back many thousands of pounds to the Post Office. Monies which were never in fact never owed or indeed missing. That in itself Mr Speaker should trigger a criminal investigation. How much of that money went to pay the previous Chief Executive’s £5m salary? And … why… can you not accept that only a Judge will get to the bottom of this miscarriage of justice?”

The stock response from the Minister to many of the questions was that a Judge-led inquiry would be extremely lengthy in terms of the length of time to conclude and it would also very expensive. Paul Scully insisted that the Independent Chair appointed to lead the review would ensure a timely conclusion and would “get to the bottom” of this matter. Whilst we understand the Minister’s reasoning in part, our strong view is that the only way we can ensure those responsible for these gross miscarriages of justice are brought to account is to conduct an Independent Judge-led inquiry and we will continue to push for this.

EDM 593: Judge-led public inquiry into the Horizon scandal

The following EDM was tabled on 10th June, sponsored by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham:

“That this House recognises the life-changing injustices experienced by subpostmasters throughout the Horizon scandal; notes with the deepest sadness that subpostmasters have served custodial sentences and suffered bankruptcy for offences they did not commit; recognises the role of the Government in prolonging this crisis through not fulfilling their role of shareholder representation on the board of Post Office Limited; expresses concern at the scope and formation of the inquiry currently outlined by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and strongly urges the Government to institute a judge-led public inquiry into this matter at the earliest opportunity.”

We expect this EDM to gain significant support as the Horizon scandal is becoming more high profile due to the Panorama and Radio 4 programmes, the recent press articles and yesterday’s urgent question session in the House of Commons. However, we would urge Branches to write to their MPs at the earliest opportunity to encourage them to sign EDM 593. A model letter template for this purpose is attached for Branches to use.

Darren Jones MP, Chair of the BEIS Select Committee – Response to “Review”

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee published a statement in response to the government’s announcement which contained the following salient points:

“The Minister’s announcement of the Independent Review into the Post Office Horizon scandal is welcome. However, without a judge-led inquiry it is not clear this review will have the necessary powers to demand evidence and require witnesses to give evidence.

“To get to the bottom of this scandal, the Government should look at ensuring this review is put on a statutory basis with subpoena powers to summon witnesses and compel them to give evidence under oath.

“The independent Review should look at the respective roles of Post Office Ltd Directors, past and present, and Fujitsu, but also Ministers and officials and their role in holding Post Office Ltd to account. It’s important that those responsible are held accountable and that the Post Office and the Government learn the lessons from this scandal and prevent this mistreatment of dedicated sub- postmasters and postal staff from ever arising again.”

Post Office – Statement in Response to “Review”

The Post Office issued a statement (see link below) following yesterday’s announcement from the Minister which confirmed “The Post Office welcomes the review announced by the Government and we will of course fully and positively engage”. A Post Office spokesperson also stated “We are also leaving no stone unturned for those postmasters with past criminal convictions that may be affected”.

http://corporate.postoffice.co.uk/secure-corporate/media-centre/post-office-media- centre/#/news/post-office-statement-on-government-announcement-of-independent- review-404344

House of Lords – Statement from Lord Callanan

Today there will also be a statement in the House of Lords entitled “Support for sub- postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal” by Lord Callanan.

Press and Media Stories

The Horizon scandal has gained significant press and media interest in the last couple of weeks particularly given the new exposure due to the Panorama and Radio 4 programmes. The Daily Mail has been following the story for some time and has today published an article reporting on the urgent questions session in the HoC yesterday using the headline “Put Post Chiefs in Dock for this gross injustice” and using a picture of former CEO Paula Vennells.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8408057/Put-Post-chiefs-dock-gross- injustice-MPs-call-prosecutions-scandal.html

In addition, Computer Weekly has today published an article entitled “Anger as government launches ‘pathetic’ and ‘pointless’ review of Horizon scandal”. The article contains a quote from Lord Arbuthnot who has raised this matter on behalf of Postmasters for many years and featured in the Panorama programme. Lord Arbuthnot said the government review “is a pathetic response to a national outrage”. Furthermore – “The Prime Minister promised to get to the bottom of the Horizon scandal. This anaemic review will fail to do that, because it fails to ask the important questions. The purpose of an independent inquiry should be to establish the truth, rather than to protect the government from any suggestion of blame.”

https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252484483/Anger-as-government-launches- pathetic-and-pointless-review-of-Horizon-scandal?

Conclusion

Whilst we welcome the progress made thus far with the announcement of the Review into this national scandal, we will though continue to put pressure on the government by all means possible to instigate an independent Judge-led public inquiry.