Ex-Camelot chief Railton to be named new Post Office chair

Business

A former boss of Camelot, the National Lottery operator, will be named this week as the next chairman of the Post Office as ministers seek to draw a line under the ugly row surrounding the exit of his predecessor.

Sky News has learnt that the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has offered the chairmanship of the government-owned company to Nigel Railton, who stepped down as Camelot boss last year.

Sources said his appointment had been signed off by Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, and would be announced on Wednesday morning.

Mr Railton, who previously worked for Daewoo, the automotive group, and British Rail, is expected to take up the post immediately amid pressure to ensure the delivery of hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation to sub-postmasters over the Horizon IT scandal.

He will replace Henry Staunton, who learned of Ms Badenoch’s plan to sack him from Sky News in January.

After he left the company, Mr Staunton made a series of public allegations about the conduct of Ms Badenoch and Nick Read, the Post Office’s chief executive.

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton
Image:
Mr Railton will replace Henry Staunton (pictured)

Earlier this month, the government declared that Mr Read retained its confidence following allegations of bullying against him, in the wake of an independent probe.

That was despite Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister, telling the House of Commons that Mr Read had sought to double his pay, with reports suggesting he had threatened to resign unless his demands were met.

Mr Railton is understood to have been selected for the job because of his extensive private sector experience.

One person who knows him said he was “a solid choice for the role, with a sound commercial brain”.

Neil Sachdev, a respected figure who chairs the state-owned Land Registry, was also in the frame for the job.

It was unclear on Tuesday evening whether Mr Railton’s appointment would be made on an interim basis or whether he would join on a long-term basis.

He currently chairs Argentex Group, a London-listed provider of currency management services.

Mr Staunton’s departure came amid disquiet in Whitehall over corporate governance challenges at the state-owned company, with allegations that he had attempted to suppress whistleblowing claims about his own behaviour.

The ensuing weeks exposed deep fissures both between the Post Office board and government, and within the Post Office itself.

The governance rows have overshadowed the government’s frantic efforts to exert a grip on the wider Post Office scandal.

Earlier this year, ministers announced unprecedented legislation to quash all convictions in England and Wales arising from the Horizon crisis would be introduced.

The bill is expected to pass into law during the summer.

As well as dealing with the continuing Horizon fallout, Mr Railton will also be charged with negotiating with Whitehall over the company’s future funding requirements.

The government’s shareholding in Post Office Limited is managed by UK Government Investments (UKGI), which is also responsible for the public’s stakes in Channel 4, the Met Office and other state-owned companies.

The Post Office relies on government funding to operate, and has been struggling in recent years amid tougher competition across the sectors in which it operates.

The Department for Business declined to comment.

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