The chairman of the Post Office has stepped down amid ongoing tensions in the wake of the Horizon IT scandal.
Henry Staunton will depart from the role following a phone call with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch on Saturday.
They agreed to ‘part ways with mutual consent’ and an interim will be appointed ‘shortly’, the Department for Business and Trade said.
Mr Staunton only took up the post at the state-owned company in December 2022, following nine years as chairman of WH Smith.
Sources reportedly claimed this weekend that Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch notified him of the decision via phone call this afternoon, Sky News reported.
Ms Badenoch said she ‘felt there was a need for new leadership’ at the Post Office as it was announced outgoing chairman Henry Staunton was stepping down.
The Business Secretary 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.’
One insider is said to have claimed there have been a number of tensions between the Post Office chairman and the government in recent months.
The search for a new chairman will come as the government aims to force through legislation that will compensate hundreds of sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences such as fraud.
The government is believed to want to give the role to a Whitehall insider in a bid to strengthen the Post Office’s corporate governance.
Analysis by The Mail on Sunday of 101 taxpayer-funded contracts reveals that more than 40 government departments, quangos and local councils have together struck £2 billion worth of deals with Fujitsu – even after a High Court ruling that its Post Office software was riddled with bugs.
Since December 2019, when Mr Justice Fraser found that ‘bugs errors and defects’ posed a ‘significant and material risk’ to sub-post offices, its software packages have been snapped up across the public sector.
Last night, Conservative MP Lucy Allan led condemnation of what she called the ‘overly cosy relationship between government and Fujitsu leadership past and present’.
She said it had been a key factor in the ‘grotesque injustice’ of the Post Office scandal and warned: ‘Fujitsu software is embedded across government, making the State effectively dependent on Fujitsu.’
And one senior MP called for a total moratorium on any further government business with Fujitsu until it ‘comes clean’ about what it knew.
HMRC is by far the tech giant’s biggest government client. Within a year of the court judgment, it had shelled out more than £1 billion – including one ‘trusted partner’ contract that excluded competition from rivals – data from analysts Tussell revealed.
Labour MP Kevan Jones, a long-time campaigner for sub-postmasters, told the MoS the full extent of Fujitsu’s role was still unclear.
He said: ‘There should be a moratorium on any new government contracts being awarded to Fujitsu until the company is willing to come clean about the full extent of what it knew.’
A Fujitsu spokeswoman said: ‘The Fujitsu Group regards this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the sub-postmasters and their families.’