The British government rejects calls for post office pay to be frozen before the election

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The British government has denied claims made by the former Postmaster General that he was ordered to stop payments to sub-postmasters ahead of the general election, after critics lashed out at ministers’ handling of compensation for victims of the Horizon scandal.

Henry Staunton, who was ousted earlier this month, told the Sunday Times newspaper that when he was appointed two years ago a senior civil servant had asked him to delay payments and new IT infrastructure for the sake of the public finances .

“Early on, a rather senior person told me to stall on spending on compensation and replacing Horizon, and to limp, quote-unquote – I wrote a note about it – limp into the election,” Staunton said . “It wasn’t an anti-postmaster thing, it was just a financial thing.”

The Department of Business and Trade said: “We completely refute these allegations. The government has expedited compensation for victims and has consistently encouraged postmasters to submit their claims.”

More than 900 sub-postmasters have been convicted in cases involving data from Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon IT system since its introduction in 1999, including more than 700 brought by the post office itself.

Thousands more have been hit after being prosecuted for account deficits, while the Government has so far paid at least £138 million of the £1 billion set aside for compensation.

Many of the victims are still waiting for offers of compensation, while others have complained that the amount awarded to them was not enough to cover the damages they suffered.

Jonathan Reynolds, the Labor MP and shadow business secretary, said on Sunday that the claims made by Staunton amounted to “incredibly serious allegations” and vowed to seek answers when parliament returns next week.

“Under no circumstances should compensation to victims be delayed and to do so for party political purposes would be a further insult to sub-postmasters,” Reynolds said.

Staunton also said Post Office chief executive Nick Read had written to ministers attempting to bring forward plans to clear victims en masse, pointing out that a review found more than 300 cases were likely to be challenged on appeal. The post office denied these claims.

Kemi Badenoch, business secretary, Sunday he wrote on social media platform X that Staunton had been fired “due to very serious allegations,” including blocking an investigation into his conduct.

Hudgell Solicitors, a firm representing around 400 former sub-postmasters, published on X that it was working to prevent victims being “short-changed” after some reported receiving offers worth tens of thousands of pounds less than they had repaid the Post Office for shortfalls.

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