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The chairman of the Post Office has been forced out by Kemi Badenoch because of frustration at how the organisation has dealt with the fallout of the Horizon IT scandal.
Henry Staunton, who became chairman in December 2022, was told by the Business Secretary on Saturday that he was to be replaced.
In a statement issued on Saturday evening, the Department for Business and Trade said that Mr Staunton had “agreed to part ways with mutual consent”.
Mrs Badenoch said: “The Post Office is rightfully under a heightened level of scrutiny at this time. With that in mind, I felt there was a need for new leadership, and we have parted ways with mutual consent.”
Mr Staunton’s departure is the latest ruction to come from the scandal, in which more than 900 Post Office workers were wrongly prosecuted after faulty software in the Horizon IT accounting system gave the appearance that money was missing from branches.
According to Sky News, which first reported the news, Mr Staunton’s exit is the result of several sources of contention that have emerged between the beleaguered state-owned company and the Government in recent months.
This is reported to include a row over who should be appointed to a senior independent director role which is due to become vacant, as well as tensions over mistaken bonuses paid to chief executive Nick Read and linked to the Post Office’s co-operation with the Horizon inquiry.
An interim chairman is due to be appointed shortly, with a recruitment process following to choose a permanent replacement.
A Post Office spokesman said: “On Saturday afternoon, the Post Office was informed that the Business and Trade Secretary had asked Henry Staunton to stand down as chairman of the Post Office. We have been advised by the Government that they will appoint an interim chairman shortly.”
Mr Staunton’s departure comes amid reports that Post Office staff are quitting their jobs because of a backlash from the Horizon scandal.
Some staff have said they no longer wish to work for the Post Office because they “can’t be in league with the devil”, while concerns have also been raised that some customers are boycotting the organisation.
The reaction has been attributed to the effect of the ITV series Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which dramatised the scandal.
Tina Debenham, a sub-postmaster in Elburton, Devon, said: “This whole situation does not just affect previous sub-postmasters.
“Those of us that still hang on to our livelihood have still to work with the same computer system, having lost income due to people boycotting the Post Office (please don’t) and the total wiping out of the value of our businesses from the devaluing of the brand’s reputation.”