In a pivotal move for the future of the UK’s postal service, Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister, is slated to engage in discussions regarding potential shifts in ownership structure.
As reported by Bloomberg, Hollinrake will convene with stakeholders this week to deliberate various options, prominently featuring the prospect of transitioning to a mutually-owned arrangement.
Among the attendees at this significant gathering will be union representatives and proponents of cooperative models, including Rose Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK. Notably, the Post Office itself will not be represented at this meeting.
Advocates of cooperative models, such as Marley, have been vocal in their support, emphasizing the societal benefits of businesses that prioritize the well-being of both their employees and the broader community. Marley articulated this viewpoint, stating, “The spotlight has fallen on the societal value of businesses and how they can be run in ways that profit the wider community, including their own staff, as well as profit the company balance sheet.”
The discussion around altering the ownership structure of the Post Office harks back to the Postal Services Act of 2011, which mandated complete public ownership. However, the possibility of mutualization was previously debated and dismissed. The potential shift towards a staff-owned model akin to mutual giant John Lewis would hinge on the Post Office’s financial viability.
These deliberations occur against the backdrop of the ongoing turmoil surrounding the Post Office, exacerbated by issues with Fujitsu’s Horizon software. This debacle resulted in wrongful convictions for numerous sub-postmasters and mistresses, with many still awaiting compensation or exoneration.
In response to the crisis, former Post Office chief Paula Vennells has been compelled to return her CBE, and an official inquiry continues, with Vennells and activist Alan Bates set to provide testimony in April. Additionally, Henry Staunton recently stepped down as Post Office chairman, a move endorsed by Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who cited the necessity for fresh leadership.
Addressing these challenges, a Post Office spokesperson underscored the commitment to rectifying past injustices, highlighting ongoing efforts to provide compensation and support to affected individuals. Despite progress, the road to resolution remains arduous, with the Post Office acknowledging the imperative of confronting and redressing the missteps of its history.