Post Office: postmaster to sit on Board of Directors

A serving postmaster is to have a non-executive director role on the UK Post Office Board, representing the views of more than 8,000 postmasters nationwide.

This move has come as the Post Office attempts to create a two way relationship with postmasters after the Horizon scandal where several were jailed due to an internal computer system error. This has impacted morale on the independent business owners who work with the Post Office.

The position has been done with the agreement of the UK government, the only shareholder of the Post Office.

At the same time a consultation is to be launched this autumn asking how postmasters and those who operate multiple branches want to be involved in the development and execution of business decisions, including forums that could advise and influence national business decisions.

Nick Read, Chief Executive at the Post Office, said: “Having a serving Postmaster on our Board sends the clearest signal yet of our determination to put Postmasters at the forefront of our business, and reset our relationship. We also want Postmasters to advise and influence business decisions, ensuring we shape the future of the Post Office together. Our consultation will ensure every Postmaster has the chance for their views to be heard, and help us get this right.”

The National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) and the existing relationship that they have with Postmasters will complement and sit alongside the Post Office’s new approach to engaging with Postmasters that emerges from this consultation.

The NFSP  said: “The organisation welcomes the announcement that Post Office Ltd (PO) intends to create a ‘Postmaster role’ on its Board. This is something the NFSP has been calling for over the last few years on behalf of our membership who are self-employed businesspeople and investors in the post office network.

“For too long, the relationship between PO and the network has been imbalanced and this must no longer be the case. As much as 98% of the post office network is privately owned; PO relies on subpostmasters to survive – they are the lifeblood of the Post Office brand, serving communities across the UK every day.

“The relationship must be one of mutual benefit and respect. With that in mind it is only right that there should be a subpostmaster voice on the PO Board to provide constructive input, advice and scrutiny.

“As such, this is a significant statement of intent by PO, as is their stated desire to consult on how the network can be better involved in the development and execution of business decisions this autumn.

“The announcement has sparked interest and conversation among NFSP members already. Many have greeted it with scepticism which demonstrates the distance PO must travel to gain the trust of the network in full.

“The NFSP will work with PO and Government to ensure that this appointment meets the needs of the network. At this stage, there is little or no detail about the remit of the new Board role or the selection process. The NFSP will be seeking this information over the coming weeks and will outline to PO and Government how we would like to see the role function.

“The post office network is a diverse collective of businesses across the country from busy city centre branches to remote rural branches that are the last shop in the village. As a result, there is great variation in the needs of different post offices. Whoever takes on this role must understand these different needs and be able to represent all subpostmasters effectively and in an even-handed way.

“We believe that the new role should act as a conduit for the network at large enabling subpostmasters to feed into the PO Board and to understand how and why decisions were reached. The new Board member can help provide vital transparency to the workings of the PO Board, but this will need to be balanced carefully with the need for confidentiality on matters of commercial sensitivity.”

NFSP CEO Calum Greenhow said: “This is a great step forward and something we have been pushing for. However, it must not be a window dressing – it must lead to substantive improvements in the relationship between PO and the network. The NFSP is offering to work closely with PO to ensure this is done properly.”