Post office

Portrait of the Week: Tory phishing, tension over Rafah and Cameron in America

Home The review by Dr Hilary Cass of gender-identity services for people under 18 called for an end to prescribing powerful hormone drugs; warned that children who change gender may regret it; and found that many had experienced trauma, neglect and abuse. More than 150,000 patients had to wait more than 24 hours in A&E before getting a hospital bed last year, a tenfold increase on 2019. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, suggested that Labour could plug the gap in its spending commitments by getting more taxes sooner from non-doms. Five Bulgarians admitted in court to stealing more than £50 million in fraudulent claims for Universal Credit. Britain held talks

Portrait of the week: Post Office scandal, Tube strikes off and dog meat banned

Home Although it had long been known that between 1999 and 2015 more than 700 sub-postmasters were convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud (based on the faulty Horizon computer accounting system software), the government suddenly proposed to do something about it because of a public outcry following an ITV drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office. The Metropolitan Police was investigating the Post Office over fraud possibly arising from money being ‘recovered from sub-postmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions’. Paula Vennells, who held high office in the Post Office from 2007 to 2019, said she was handing back her CBE ‘with immediate effect’, although it is

The joy of French motorways

The news that Heineken, the Dutch brewer, has sold its business in Russia to a local buyer for a token $1 – at a loss of €300 million, but with job guarantees for 1,800 Russian workers – raises moral issues about when and how multinationals should withdraw from pariah states. A database compiled by Yale professor and corporate responsibility campaigner Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, tracking 1,586 foreign operators in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, counts 534 as having made a clean exit versus 219 (including BT and some smaller UK-listed companies, alongside a plethora of Chinese names) ‘digging in’ for business as usual. The rest, global brands and pharma giants among

Who’s really to blame for the Post Office scandal?

The alleged frauds for which the Post Office prosecuted no fewer than 736 of its sub-postmasters has turned out in almost all cases to be the result of faults in a computer system called Horizon which Post Office managers and the system’s supplier, Fujitsu of Japan, were reluctant to acknowledge. That’s the short summary of a miscarriage of justice which also looks like a case of mismanagement to the point of delusion: how could anyone believe a copy-cat crime wave on this scale was sweeping through a cohort of small businesspeople generally seen as the most upstanding of local citizens? And if that wasn’t the belief, the only other explanation

What lessons can we learn from the Post Office scandal?

How could the subpostmaster scandal, in which hundreds of small business owners had their lives ruined after being wrongly accused of taking money from the Post Office, have gone on for so long?  The subpostmasters were sucked into a nightmare when the Post Office installed a new accounting system called Horizon to replace old manual accounting practices. They found that their tills just weren’t balancing. Some tried to top up the difference from their own money, but the discrepancies mounted until some stretched into tens of thousands of pounds.  When they asked for help from the Post Office, they were told they were the only people having trouble. They weren’t

The tyranny of French bureaucracy

Applying for a French bank account is like trying for a permit to open a Christian bookshop in North Korea. Failing twice, I thought I’d try instead for a post office account. I went for an interview armed with passport, proofs of address, pay slips, old school reports and my inside-leg measurement. But it wasn’t enough. I was shown into a booth and sat facing a masked woman name of Maud. Maud and I were separated by a clear Perspex divide. ‘I’m listening,’ said Maud. I slid my shiny new passport through a slot in the screen. ‘I would like to open a post office current account,’ I said. Maud

The Blackburn brothers who are bringing Asda home

What a triumph of entrepreneurial empire-building — if that’s still an acceptable phrase — is the £6.8 billion acquisition of the Asda supermarket chain by Blackburn-born self-made billionaires Mohsin and Zuber Issa. Sons of Gujarati immigrants, these brothers have advanced from a single petrol station in Bury to a chain of almost 6,000 in ten countries with convenience stores and coffee shops attached. Now their company EG Group has brought Asda back into British ownership after two decades as part of Walmart, the big-box monster of American shopping. The pair’s success has been built on boosting the profitability of fuel retailing, in an era when big oil companies were pulling

How the Post Office lost its way

One of the many gems in the vast archives of the Post Office is a six-volume collection of letters from a Colonel Whitley in Head Office to the men (and not a few women) working across the country as postmasters. A former private secretary to King Charles II, Whitley effectively ran the nascent General Post Office for five years with conspicuous success. Those under his charge found him, as we might say, firm but fair. In a letter of November 1672, Whitley sternly advised one Mr Watts to crack down hard on a slipshod junior whom he had been foolish to employ on the mails. As the Colonel pointed out,