The UK government is lining up outgoing WH Smith chairman Henry Staunton to head the Post Office, as it seeks to navigate the fallout of the miscarriage of justice that saw hundreds of the state-owned company’s workers wrongfully convicted of serious crimes.
Former ITV finance director Staunton has been chosen as the preferred candidate to succeed Tim Parker in chairing the Post Office, Sky News first reported.
If it proceeds, Staunton will take over the Post Office in the wake of one of Britain’s most widespread miscarriages of justice, that saw hundreds of sub-postmasters prosecuted for theft, false accounting, and fraud.
The scandal saw the Post Office launch hundreds of private prosecutions against workers after Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon accounting software mistakenly flagged shortfalls on multiple post office branches’ books.
It is now expected the Post Office will be forced to pay more than £1bn in compensation to those caught up in the scandal, that saw the public-owned company deny there were any problems with Fujitsu’s Horizon software for decades, after issues were first raised in 1999.
Staunton, who also sits on the boards of Legal & General and Standard Bank is now the frontrunner to take over from Parker, who is set to leave his position at the Post Office in Autumn this year.
Having joined the Post Office in 2015, Parker has spent the majority of his tenure at the company dealing with the Horizon scandal, for which he apologised in 2020.
As chairman of WH Smith, which took control of 61 Post Office branches in 2016, Staunton is considered well placed to guide the company through the profound shifts in the way retail and banking services are delivered after he leaves the major UK retailer in November this year.