Post Office's Horizon compensation chief to step down from board

The Post Office board member responsible for overseeing the delivery of a controversial compensation scheme for sub-postmasters is to step down from its board.

Sky News has learnt that Ben Tidswell, a former lawyer with the international law firm Ashurst who became a director of the Post Office in July 2021, is leaving after only one term.

The government, which is responsible for board appointments at the state-owned company, has begun seeking a replacement for Mr Tidswell, and is working with the search firm GatenbySanderson on the process.

Mr Tidswell is the Post Office's senior independent director and also chairs the board remediation committee, which "oversees the administration of the Horizon Shortfall Scheme... [and] considers claim outcomes recommended by the Independent Advisory Panel, including those recommending offers of financial compensation".

It was unclear on Friday why Mr Tidswell had decided to step down after just one three-year term.

A deadline for applications for the role has been set for next Monday, with an appointment expected in the spring, according to a website which displays senior public sector vacancies.

The successful applicant will be paid £40,000-a-year.

The administration of the compensation scheme for sub-postmasters affected by the Horizon IT scandal is one of the many issues to have faced intense criticism from former employees and politicians.

The news of Mr Tidswell's impending departure has emerged on another grim day at the public inquiry into the crisis in which both the Post Office and Japanese software provider Fujitsu played central roles.

Paul Patterson, Fujitsu's European chief, admitted that there were "bugs, errors and defects" in the Horizon system from the outset, an acknowledgement likely to deepen the fury of those whose lives were blighted by the cover-up.

Sky News revealed earlier this week that Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, had written to Fujitsu to seek talks about the company's willingness to contribute to a compensation bill expected to total more than £1bn.

Fujitsu has said it has "a moral obligation" to foot part of the cost, without saying how much it is prepared to pay.

When Mr Tidswell was appointed in 2021, the then Post Office chairman Tim Parker paid tribute to "the depth of his legal experience, including the resolution of disputes", saying it would "help Post Office to deliver fair redress efficiently as we compensate those impacted by historical failures".

Read more:
Former sub-postmaster responds after hearing Fujitsu manager labelled him a 'nasty chap'
Horizon developer Fujitsu says it will compensate victims of Post Office scandal

Mr Tidswell himself said he was "pleased to have been appointed to the board as the Post Office implements its strategy to become a commercially sustainable and sought-after franchise with postmasters at the centre of its business".

"For this to happen, it must fairly and transparently resolve issues of the past and I am looking forward to playing my part in helping Post Office to achieve this," he added.

The government declined to comment further on its search for a new Post Office board member.