Post Office Ltd – Who is in Charge?

While Post Office Ltd was a subsidiary of Royal Mail and Royal Mail were owned by the Government there was an easy an understandable chain of command.   The MD of POL reported to the MD of Royal Mail who in turn reported to the Government via the Stakeholder Executive.   So the Government were one step removed from controlling what happened in the Post Office.

Now that is no longer the case.   There is a board of Directors and a new Chairman who report to the Shareholder Executive of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

But the problem is that the Shareholder Executive are Civil Servants and rely totally on what Paula Vennells and her cronies tell them to be true.  So when Paula tells them all is well then all is well.

From a Ministerial point of view (Yes Minister!) the minister in charge relies totally on the BIS Civil Servants to provide him with briefings and answers to ministerial questions in line with government policy.  The Minister cannot be seen to intervene even in the light of media revelations of questionable practices e.g. the Horizon scandal.

There is one governmental body though that can intervene and has in the past.  The Commons Select Committee for BIS.  This Committee can call it’s own inquiry into Post Office affairs and has done so in the past.   Such an inquiry can lead to a report and recommendations but that is the limit of its powers.

So Post Office Ltd management can carry on with impunity no matter how wrong and misguided their actions may be.

What is the answer to this conundrum?  I don’t know.  Public scrutiny through the media helps to embarrass the Government but is rarely effective in promoting change.    I’ll keep plugging on though trying to raise awareness of the approaching demise of a national institution through a mixture of mismanagement and ineptitude.   I am so glad I got out of running a Post Office when I did and only a fool would now take one on.

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One thought on “Post Office Ltd – Who is in Charge?

  1. The separation of RM and POL has far greater implications.

    For now, RM has a contract to use POL to service its mail business for a fixed period, but that was the story with TV Licensing, water companies etc and as contracts come to an end, so we get the lowest cost operator winning the business regardless.

    At best, and as always, POL will roll over and agree lower transaction costs, regardless of the damage caused to the remaining income of sub postmasters.

    At worst, POL will lose the business entirely, leading to the closure of the entire business.

    And there remains the issue of how much of every transaction sticks at POL HO.

    Of course, there are central costs that must be paid for and also transactional costs, funding costs etc, but in too many cases where transactions are almost entirely systems based as in car tax, the % of the total fee charged that sticks at HO is unacceptably high and entirely unexplained.

    Well, not entirely unexplained when there is one person at POL for every 4 PO branches/sub POs.

    One of the striking things about the Network Transformation Team (having endured numerous meetings with about a dozen different people) is how none of them have any subpost office experience, they all have Crowns backgrounds.

    Given that Crowns have been the lost loss making part of the Post Office for decades, one is tempted to bowdlerise the old FILTH acronym (failed in London, try Hong Kong) to FICTION (Failed in Crowns, Tryit on Network)

    Like

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