The Future of Post Office Ltd
In my opinion there is no escaping the fact that the institution known as Post Office Ltd(POL) and owned 100% by the Government is doomed. Perhaps not through the slow process of financial decline but rather through the very sharp shock about to be delivered to it by the group known as Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA)
I am sure that anybody reading this is aware of what is going on and that JFSA have launched a legal claim against POL with regard to losses incurred by Subpostmasters (SPMRs) whilst using the Horizon Computer System.
Over the years POL have dug a large hole for themselves in the hope that the JFSA claims would just disappear. In doing so they have repeatedly chosen to defend the Horizon Computer System rather than address the issues raised by JFSA and that has led to allegations – no – clear evidence of a management led cover up.
POL can no longer backtrack. There is nowhere to hide. Victory for JFSA is pretty much assured and the claims arising, in financial terms, will be in the many hundreds of millions of pounds. In criminal terms there is every reason to believe that the Serious Fraud Office will become involved and, in my opinion, jail terms are likely for senior POL management past and present.
So what does the future hold for POL and the network of SPMRs it supports?
Of course a key player in all of this is the Government. Heads will of course roll – even Cameron is at risk given a well timed PMQ he was forced to respond to – but that will not be enough. The British Public will demand a Post Office network and a solution will have to be found.
The Government assigns day to day responsibility for POL to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The individuals in that department are implicitly involved in the failings of POL and they will have to go. So who will take over? Another Civil Servant of course whose remit will be to come up with an answer to this significant problem.
Royal Mail Group is now a private company and also of course POL’s biggest supplier. They are however not blameless either. The CEO Moya Greene was in charge of POL when RMG was still a Government entity. She was well aware of the problems surrounding Horizon and will not escape investigation into her role at that time. She will find it hard to stay in her position.
Bank of Ireland is also a key supplier of financial products through the Post Office Network. Would they wish to become embroiled in such a fiasco? They have a significant financial incentive to do so but they would be putting their reputation on the line.
While POL Management will take the brunt of the blame for this sorry state of affairs and very few will remain after a clear out, the fact is that they have, over the years, ensured that the POL workforce has imbibed their insistence that Horizon is a reliable system. Not only that but the attitude of POL towards SPMRs and vice versa to be fair has been one of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ and POL have always been seen by the SPMR community to adopt an aggressive, arrogant and threatening stance in their relationship with individual SPMRs.
I just cannot see a situation where a new management team will be able to sort out all these institutionalised problems. If that is the case then what chance does the Government/BIS have in reviving the fortunes of the Post Office Network? I don’t think they have any.
That would leave the group that remains, who depend on the network for a significant part of their business, to sort things out; RMG, BOI and Subpostmasters. I hasten to add that heaven forbid the NFSP are involved as they too are very much implicated in the Horizon Scandal.
I can see the possibility of RMG and BOI realising at last that they never needed POL in the first place and they could work directly with existing SPMRs in providing a suitable solution.
We’ll see. The only missing piece now is the timeframe. It could be months if the Government step in quickly or years if the process is to be played out in the courts. What is certain is that all will be revealed one way or another.