Government to hold mutualisation talks with Post Office workers, report says

Rose Marley from Co-operatives UK will attend discussions between union leaders and business minister Kevin Hollinrake, says Bloomberg

In the wake of the Horizon IT scandal, the government will meet Post Office workers to discuss giving them mutual ownership of the business, Bloomberg has reported.

According to the report, business minister Kevin Hollinrake will meet union leaders on Wednesday, along with Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK.

They will discuss the possibility of shifting the Post Office from government ownership to the sub-postmasters, who run its 11,500 outlets, sources told Bloomberg, with other issues also on the agenda. The topic will be one of several issues under discussion, they added.

Policymakers had previously considered mutualisation in the early 2010s when it was split off from the Royal Mail, but ministers wanted to make it more commercially viable. Last year, Hollinrake told the National Federation of SubPostmaster’s (NFSP) annual conference he supported the mutualisation of the Post Office, so long as it was on a sustainable footing.

Since then, the scandal of the wrongful convictions of sub-postmasters has slowly built, coming to a head with this year’s ITV drama. Last week, thinktank Mutuo reissued its policy paper arguing for a mutualised service.

Ministers did not offer comment to Bloomberg but union leaders and postmaster representatives both spoke favourably of the mutual option.

Richard Trinder, chair of Voice of the Postmaster, said: “We need significant change. Ministers have looked at mutualising the Post Office in the past and it’s time we revisited these options. We’re looking forward to meeting with Kevin Hollinrake to discuss how the Post Office can best serve the needs of all stakeholders – including sub-postmasters, our communities and government.”

Sean Hudson, branch secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said: “The current model is broken – there is no doubt about that and it is the reason we are all meeting. The problems of the past are clear but the future is as important as the past to our members and no sticking plaster remedy is appropriate or suitable.

“Mutualisation is a very attractive alternative to the current failed model it would replace and represents one of, if not the best way of ensuring a future for sub-postmasters in which they can continue to serve their communities on an economically viable footing – which has been missing to date.”

Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK said: “With the departure of Henry Staunton, we are supporting the Voice of the Postmaster and CWU in their dialogue with ministers, to understand how mutualisation could be part of how we rebuild the Post Office.

“Turning the Post Office into a co-operative offers a practical way to put control of this national institution in the hands of the sub-postmasters and communities it serves. Co-operatives are more productive, more resilient, more accountable and more effective at serving communities. We evidence those facts year upon year, so the mutualisation option must again be given serious consideration. It is unfinished business for the government, which published plans to mutualise the Post Office in 2012. If the postmasters and communities had a greater stake and say in the control of the Post Office 10 years ago, would it have taken another decade to get justice?”

The Bloomberg report warns that the Post Office’s finances need a years-long overhaul – and the issue of compensation for the victims of the miscarriages of justice has still to be resolved.

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