Post Office boss ‘obsessed with his pay’, claims former HR director

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The chief executive of the Post Office was “obsessed” with his pay and threatened to resign unless it was increased even as the Horizon scandal escalated, a former HR director at the postal service has claimed.

The former chief people officer, Jane Davies, said Nick Read repeatedly demanded pay increases from the government, the company’s sole shareholder, and described his bonus as “intolerable”.

Davies has previously accused Read of bullying, an allegation of which he was cleared in an external report published earlier this month.

But on Tuesday, the business select committee published a lengthy letter from Davies in which she further addressed her relationship with Read, who she said blamed her for failing to help him secure improved terms.

Davies told MPs that Read repeatedly threatened to resign over his pay deal, which she claimed “dominated” her first eight weeks at the Post Office after she joined in December 2022, in the middle of a judge-led inquiry into the Horizon scandal.

Davies described more than 30 emails and instant messages in December 2022 and January 2023 discussing Read’s growing disgruntlement over his remuneration.

The issue became a “huge distraction” from her duties, Davies claimed, which included efforts to secure compensation for victims of the Horizon scandal, widely seen as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

Post Office annual reports show that Read has earned £2.28m in the four years since 2020, his first full year in office, of which £1.68m was basic salary. The remaining £600,000 came from performance-related extras, including a £455,000 bonus for 2021-22.

In a business select committee session about the Horizon scandal in June 2023, Read said he was “very conscious that I am very well paid”.

Nick Read, the boss of the Post OfficeView image in fullscreen

The alleged exchanges took place as post office operators, hundreds of whom were wrongfully convicted of crimes such as fraud and theft due to the flawed Horizon IT system, were still battling for compensation.

According to Davies, Read wrote in an email on 16 December 2022 that his “bonus situation is intolerable”. The Post Office annual report shows that he was paid £137,000 in bonuses for the year 2022-23.

In the same email he allegedly asked: “Can the business afford to be rudderless”?

Davies also claimed that in December 2022, Read came into the office of the Post Office’s recently appointed chair, Henry Staunton, and threatened to immediately resign unless Staunton could “appease” him with an incentive to stay.

Staunton was initially supportive of Read, Davies claims, taking the request for higher pay to the government, which is the sole shareholder in the Post Office.

The request met with “short shrift”, she said, adding that Read had previously threatened to resign unless the government lifted a freeze on his pay twice in the previous year.

“Nick had cried wolf at least three times,” she claims a board member told her.

After Davies prepared a new pay proposal to ministers, Read allegedly remained unhappy, saying: “I am prepared to submit a formal grievance and or make a claim for constructive dismissal.”

Davies alleged the pay feud with the government continued but that Staunton eventually told Read he would get a 5% salary increase from £415,000 to £436,000 in 2023, as well as an agreement that the previous year’s bonus did not need to be repaid. She did not explain why the bonus might have been repaid.

She also claimed that Read had previously recalculated the methodology used to calculate his bonus, resulting in an inflated bonus being paid that had not been rubber-stamped by the government.

Other executives referred to this as an “unauthorised” bonus and were unhappy about it, she claimed.

She said this demonstrated “a pattern of behaviour, which was centred on maximising his own pay, not erring on the side of caution and not taking into consideration the wide inequalities of pay in [the Post Office]”.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “Just last week a highly reputable barrister produced an extensive, robust, and impartial report that fully exonerated Nick Read of all the misconduct allegations levelled against him, and in so doing discredited many of the claims raised in these letters.

“For the avoidance of doubt the barrister was fully empowered to investigate and conclude as she saw fit. Our focus remains on providing redress for postmasters; learning from the grievous errors of the past; and building an organisation able to meet the challenges of the future.”

The company did not directly address Davies’ allegations about Read’s pay.


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