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Friday, November 16, 2018

Bates v Post Office: The NFSP

Some comment on an ongoing issue which was highlighted on Day 6 of Bates v Post Office (see the write-up here).

If ever there has been an organisation which has utterly failed its members, it is the National Federation of Subpostmasters, the only "union" the Post Office will recognise.

I remember years ago talking to a Private Eye journalist (in the context of the Post Office's Horizon IT system) about the IT cock-up stories they have run down the years. I asked where they got their information about these public- sector IT disasters. He said, "the unions."

The journalist told me it was never whistleblowers within the IT companies who delivered these programmes, it was membership organisations, who, hearing the complaints of their frontline staff, got these stories into the public domain.

For as long as I can remember, the NFSP's position has always been that when it comes to Horizon, the Post Office can do no wrong. The moment any Subpostmaster claims something has gone screwy, the NFSP hangs them out to dry. That is a matter of policy. And that was before the NFSP was thrown out of the trades union movement and legally stopped from calling itself a union.

Why, though? To be fair, George Thomson, General Secretary of the NFSP when he gave evidence to the parliamentary select committee back in 2015, was pretty transparent. He told MPs:
"We have to be careful that we are not creating a cottage industry that damages the brand and makes clients like the DWP and the DVLA think twice. We do £350 million a week. We pay out £18 billion a year for the DWP in Government benefits. The DWP would not have re-awarded the Post Office card account contract, which pays out £18 billion a year, in the last month if they thought for a minute that this computer system was not reliable. 
"I understand that Mark [Baker the CWU rep for Subpostmasters], for the right reasons, has genuine feelings about it, and Andy [Furey also from the CWU] has as well. But if we are not careful, we damage the brand, we damage the franchise and we cost my members’ ability to sell the franchise. If we lose big contracts, Andy’s members lose their jobs as well. So we have to be careful that we do not create a cottage industry that is built on supposition."
George Thomson's argument is self-evident. If we start querying the effectiveness of Horizon, how do his members, when they want to retire or move on, sell their business to the next Subpostmaster who wants to take over? Public doubt over the integrity of Horizon devalues the value of the entire business.

But the logic is...  if a few Subpostmasters get suspended, sacked and lose their livelihoods because of what they are saying is problems with the Horizon system... it is a price the NFSP are prepared to pay to retain the value of a branch Post Office for the majority of Subpostmasters who haven't tripped up yet.

This is really important because the Post Office are always keen to draw attention to the fact that the "independent" NFSP supports the Post Office on Horizon. And it has made this explicit in it's opening submission to court on Day 1 of the trial:
"it should be noted that the National Federation of Subpostmasters (“NFSP”), which is the organisation which represents SPMs and their interests nationwide, does not support this action and does not endorse the factual premises of the Claims."
If you are in any doubt about the nature of the relationship between the NFSP and the Post Office, take a look at this - it is the current Grant Funding agreement between the NFSP and the Post Office signed in 2015, which sets out the way in which the Post Office will fund pays for the NFSP's existence and gives it a £1m special projects slush fund to boot.

This agreement is posted on the NFSP website, and was drafted by the same firm representing the Post Office in court today:

5.3  The NFSP shall not engage in the following activities or behaviours:
  1. 5.3.1  undertaking any public activity which may prevent POL from implementing any of its initiatives, policies or strategies;
  2. 5.3.2  undertaking or inducing a third party to undertake media or political campaigns against POL;
  3. 5.3.3  organising or inducing a third party to organise public demonstrations, protests or petitions against POL;
  4. 5.3.4  organising or inducing a third party to organise boycotts of POL's business;
  5. 5.3.5  funding or inducing any third party litigation against POL; and
  6. 5.3.6  other activities or behaviour the effect of which may be materially detrimental to POL.

I would suggest that if you are a Subpostmaster, and you read that, and you still expect the NFSP to represent your interests, you are fool.

If you want some kind of idea about how important Horizon is to the Post Office's business model, take a read of this document, which was discussed in court on Monday.

It is a chain of emails from 2010 about Pam Stubbs, the second Lead Claimant to take the stand in this trial. Mrs Stubbs, a Subpostmaster who didn't have any problems with Horizon until her terminal was moved to a temporary cabin, is being held liable for sudden, inexplicable negative discrepancies showing up on her terminal.

Look at the language in these emails. From Mrs Stubbs' testimony, no one at the Post Office has given a monkeys about the problems she is having. But now, it seems, from their own documents, they do, because she is questioning the integrity of Horizon.

Mrs Stubbs didn't see any of this until it was disclosed to court. Here are a few select quotes:

"This branch has a very large loss which the spmr is attributing to Horizon. We have already had one Flag case on this and this will remain high profile so the data does need to be retrieved."

"What we're trying to determine here is whether there is any discrepancy between the information sent in to the Live Service team by the spmr, Mrs Stubbs, and what the Horizon system is showing. She is alleging that her losses of £28k+ are due to problems with the Horizon system after it was relocated into a portacabin last October whilst the branch was being renovated."

"This is quickly turning into a bit of a problem.
This is a potential fraud where losses occurred when a spmr moved into a portacabin, but ceased the moment she was suspended and somebody else run the office. She did have a clerk, so it could transpire she has nothing to do with the losses. We are talking about £28k, a potential flag case, with MP's involved. The spmr is questioning the integrity of Horizon.
It looks like contracts/Chesterfield dealt with this themselves, although did speak to investigations. Once I received the paper work from Nigel, it looks like there are numerous activities that have taken place, including somebody sending in an auditor who sat with the spmr for half a day which clearly made matters worse.
I don't know why we were never approached to deal with this as a criminal investigation in the first instance, perhaps it was felt that it wasn't at the time. The auditor supposedly witness all transactions for half a day and witness Horizon being short, thereby corroborating her account and also now a potential witness for her... this is high profile. She has also joined the spmr's fight to question the integrity of Horizon. As it stands no investigation has taken place by us, various intervention has probably complicated this, yet because it is a question of Horizon integrity we can't simply ignore it, or drop it, but probably have some difficult questions ahead of us in terms of why has it taken so long for us to consider this criminal if this is the course of action we take."

It's all here if you want to read the original:

 
On Horizon, the NFSP and the Post Office are one and the same. It is their business model.

Once a Subpostmaster takes on a Post Office, their entire exit strategy is dependent on the belief that  Horizon works and the Post Office will do the right thing by them.

And let's be clear, Horizon works for most Subpostmasters most of the time.

The problems arise when someone has a problem with Horizon. That's when they allege they are pushed over the battlements into a crocodile-infested moat. With all the shocks to the system that entails.

I have asked the NFSP for their comments. I will let you know what they say when they respond.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Day 6 write-up: The Post Office speaks!

It is a massive shame it has taken so much taxpayers cash to get here.

It is borderline pathetic that the only reason we are here is because of a campaign by a few committed individuals and ten million-plus quid which has been chucked at a bunch of undoubtedly talented lawyers.

What we saw in the witness box today was two ordinary joes from the Post Office talking relatively freely about the way their organisation operates.

You can read the blow-by-blow tweets from Day 6 here.

The first witness was Nick Beal, Head of Agents’ Development and Renumeration at Post Office, the second was Paul Williams, Restrictions Advisor for the Post Office.

I have been told (and I don't set any store by this) that one of the problems with the Post Office is the people who are there stay there. As a result, very little fresh blood comes in at any level, and the way things are done, remains the way things are always done.

Mr Beal started his employment at the Post Office as a counter clerk in 1987. Mr Williams started his employment with the Post Office, also as a counter clerk, in 1979. Now - don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a lifer. Terry Wogan, at his Radio 2 leaving lunch said "the British have a tendency to confuse longevity with merit". It was a joke.

Mr Beal and Mr Williams cross-examination was conducted by the dashing Patrick Green QC, and it  offered up extremely useful insights into the way the Post Office operates.

Over the course of 5 hours today Mr Green made several points. I'm going to pick out three and I'd like to deal with the first two together. This is what I felt was the broad thrust of Mr Green's arguments:

a) The contract Subpostmasters have with the Post Office is weird. It is a sort-of freelance, sort-of employment, sort-of agent, friends-with-benefits kind of deal, which is all touchy-feely-buying-into-the-family-kind-of-vibe at the outset.

b)  The obligations of the Subpostmasters under the various documents they are given before they sign up to the job, as they take over the job and as they try to keep on top of the job are many, varied, confusing and all legally enforceable.

Both Mr Beal and Mr Williams were candid on this - there is a lot of fluffy bumf around for potential Subpostmasters when they are looking to sign up (let's call it the "courtship" phase), and there is a lot of quite serious stuff that some of them may or may not get to see (once they get into the "operational" phase) but when things are going well, both the Post Office and their agents work hard to do the right thing by each other.

Mr Williams was particularly impressive - he said he was certain potential Subpostmasters would get their full 114-page Subpostmaster contracts at least on the day they joined as Subpostmasters, and likely before they'd committed to joining the organisation. He said he introduced better recruitment and HR standards as the Post Office was "teased away" from being a government department to a limited company, and he was certain his department always helped potential and newly signed Subpostmasters when they needed assistance.

He was confident in his department and he was very clear that Alan Bates, who is the man behind this group litigation, would have got his contract (Mr Bates denies it).

By the time Mr Bates was hired, says Mr Williams, it was standard practice to send the contract out with the usual stuff and, being a 114 page document, it was not the sort of thing you would miss from a pack you are sending out. Although Mr Williams didn't personally send Mr Bates his contract, he was sure his staff would have sent him his contract.

Mr Green, for the claimants, probed and pushed with both Mr Beal and Mr Williams and there were times Mr Beal didn't know or couldn't remember why things were like they were. There were also times Mr Williams was quite candid in saying things could have been better. I get the feeling that Mr Green was saying: "it's a bit confusing and disorientating when you look at all these terms and contracts for everyone - and you guys are the experts!"

He landed some blows, but not many. Both Mr Williams and Mr Beal came across as people who wanted to do the right thing at all times.

Now onto Mr Green's third point:

The National Federation of Subpostmasters, once an actual trade union, now described as an independent organisation, is anything but. It is wholly in the pocket and pay of the Post Office and it is contractually obliged not to do or say anything which could do anything "materially detrimental to the Post Office".

Mr Green cited the NFSP's grant funding agreement, which did away with membership subs and made the NFSP dependent on the Post Office for its existence. The strings are not hidden. This is from the Grant Funding agreement posted on the NFSP website.

5.3  The NFSP shall not engage in the following activities or behaviours:
  1. 5.3.1  undertaking any public activity which may prevent POL from implementing any of its initiatives, policies or strategies;
  2. 5.3.2  undertaking or inducing a third party to undertake media or political campaigns against POL;
  3. 5.3.3  organising or inducing a third party to organise public demonstrations, protests or petitions against POL;
  4. 5.3.4  organising or inducing a third party to organise boycotts of POL's business;
  5. 5.3.5  funding or inducing any third party litigation against POL; and
  6. 5.3.6  other activities or behaviour the effect of which may be materially detrimental to POL.

In court today Patrick Green reminded Nick Beal that the Post Office has described the claimants' litigation (in its skeleton argument) as an "existential threat" to the Post Office's business mode.

He asked: "does this action fall under the terms of [the NFSPs] Grant agreement?"

Mr Beal said he didn't know

Mr Green asked "so the NFSP cannot support this litigation because of the terms of your Grant?”

Mr Beal did not know.

Mr Green carried on in this mode for some time. Eventually the judge, Mr Justice Fraser said (and I paraphrase).:

"Mr Green, whether your point is that the NFSP are contractually prevented from supporting this litigation, or because they’re being paid too much money by the Post Office to not support it, you’ve made your point."

I've made my own comments on this issue in a separate blog post.

----------------------------------------------------------------

There were a couple of procedural moments of interest. In the morning session, Mr Patrick Green, QC for the claimants, mentioned in passing he had been disclosed some important documents by the Post Office the previous evening. The judge stopped proceedings to query this.

Just before lunch, the judge asked about this situation again. He asked Mr Green when his legal team requested the documents, what they were, how many they were and when they were disclosed.

Mr Green said it was 350 pages worth of documents, disclosing 45 different email chains.

The judge bridled (he has given numerous warnings to both parties about the methods they are employing to conduct this litigation).  In what I would describe as a very firm manner, Mr Justice Fraser said he was not prepared to deal with a case of this importance in which obviously necessary documentation was being disclosed so late. It was not acceptable.

He then ordered a witness statement from the Post Office solicitors to be given to him by 4pm tomorrow explaining why it took so long to disclose the documents. I expect Womble Bond Dickinson can adequately explain the delay and look forward to putting their explanation to the judge, in the witness statement.

And the end of the day the judge moved on to the dread reality of a third trial in this case. He is pushing for it to happen before the summer. Both the claimants and the defence QCs want it after summer because they want to go into a "mediation phase" after the Horizon trial (confirmed as beginning on March 11 for 5 weeks). Now I don't specifically know what this mediation phase involves (ie who will be mediating what and on what grounds) but the QCs seemed to think the amount of time required to make it successful could push the third trial into September next year.

The judge was not taken by this and noted 5 June as a good date for the third trial. He suggested this trial might be on the individual circumstances of a few ("less than six, possibly just two") claimants, not necessarily even those who are lead claimants in the current trial. The judge suggested this would allow markedly less prep time that the Common Issues trial (the current one) and the Horizon trial (March 2019). The less prep time, the more mediation time.

The QCs weren't keen. This idea of mediation and its timing (after two trials...?) is new to me so I will try to find out more.

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That's me done for the next three days. There is no court sitting tomorrow, and I have managed to find gainful employment elsewhere. If you like these blog posts and emails, please consider chucking something into the paypal tip jar at www.postofficetrial.com

I'll be back at 10.30am on Monday morning.


Day 6 - live tweets


Here is an unroll of my tweets of the day, which can either be viewed on the Thread Reader app, or in their original form here on twitter. The version below has been modified for ease of reading and formatting.

And today’s rather grouchy secret email has been sent to subscribers. Subscribe for daily secrets on postofficetrial.com

Here is yesterday’s write up by the @ft on ft.com/2PuCxd3

Mr Beal has been sworn in. He is the Head of Agents’ Development and Renumeration at Post Office.

PG asks about his witness statement in which he says he speaks about PO practices which happened before he started based on his own experience.
NB was a manager of crown post office between 1990 - 1996.

NB says his branches were computerised with paper records alongside it. Crown offices in the 90s used Echo Plus. 
PG says this contrasts with agents in branches using paper-based systems.

NB says there was a pilot computerised system in the Thames Valley in the 90s which was run alongside a paper-based system.

1996 - 2001 NB became a manager involved in the analysis and design of operational procedudres in advance of the rollout of Horizon (H).
PG wants to know if this was changes to agents or PO or both.
NB says both - it was about way transactions were conducted.

… with a view to automating them. NB was a about product-facing, not what the agent would see on the screen.
Judge asks what product-facing means.
NB says work related to products rather than back office. Accounting process is non product-facing. Which he didn’t do.
Still going through NB’s cv - in 2001 to 2004 he was Head of OPerational Finance and Planning. Head Office.
Just to be clear PG - Patrick Green QC - is representing the claimants and this is a cross-examination. 

PG points out that PO was making losses whilst NB was doing what he was doing and he was trying to improve performance.
NB agrees.
PG says one of the issues PO had recovery of losses after termination.
NB says it didn’t fall within his role.

PG is it fair to say H was a big change for SPMRs
NB Yes I would say that.
PG now taking NB through Angela van den Bogerd’s witness statement.

Got to the point in AvdB’s WS where she says handing over H data to SPMRs would not work. PO operates the system on behalf of the SPMR.
PG asks NB if he’s happy in his job and likes the PO.
NB says he is [his boss is in the room, but he is on oath]
PG now taking NB through the bumph they use when they recruit SPMRs about welcoming them into the warm embrace of the PO. 
Now talks about the booklet’s setting out of the training and support they might receive.
NB agrees it sets an expectation
PG but there’s nothing…
… surprising about this expectation at all?
NB agrees
PG Now “we care for all our employees, SPMRS and we cherish ourplace in the community.” is that a fair expectation of how the PO should behave?
NB Yes.

PG now on to training bumph “training is usually delivered by an agency trainer - it usually varies from office to office to meet your needs.” 
onsite training detailed customers service, accounting etc
ongoing training assessed by retail manager. PG says not surprising this?
mentions NB agrees. We supplied the booklet, so yes.
PG points out list of training services provided inc problem-solving “speedy accurate information on” handling complaints etc
PG no surprises?
NB agrees

Just a note - unless something in these tweets is in quotes it is not a direct quote - it is a paraphrase.

PG noting bumph “you will have received a full contract on the day you start working at the very latest” - it is a working document, demonstrates what we expect from you...
… and you can get from us.
NB says this document is from the late 80s/90s
PG it’s still being used
NB said it wasn’t part of his role when it was written. He took on the role of responsibility for the content of the contracts later…

Judge is querying NBs area of responsibility.

PG asks if the contract changed when H was brought in, as it was quite a big change on the ground.
NB says he believes the contract broadly stayed the same.

PG raising NB’s WS note about changing the contract for the NT programme (network transformation), “the core principles of the agent being responsible for running the branch, employing assistants, completing the accounts and liability for losses remained the same"
NB goes to p16 of NB statement in which is makes quite clear that the SPMR contract is standard with no scope for individual negotiation. 
PG asks about his familiarity with the old SPMC contract and modified (NT) contract

PG notes contract says SPMR can make a written response to any allegations of wrongdoing against them and can request a meeting with an area manager and be accompanied by a “friend”.
PG notes he can appeal against suspension in writing. "There is no formal...
… appeal against termination in 3 months notice.” but the SPMR can appeal against SUMMARY termination.
PG making clear the distinction and saying it is the same in both old and modified contract.
NB says he doesn’t know
PG calls up the relevant document…

PG says there is a difference between the contracts in that one does allow an appeal against 3 months termination and one doesn’t.
NB agrees
PG reason I asked you about this is that you’d have to be broadly familiar with the standard and modified contract and YOU didn’t know about the difference between the appeal procedures between the two documents (standard and modified SPMC).
PG asks about an internal guidance document on termination on notice and how to word the letter. He says the doc fails to draw attention to the distinction between the right or lack of appeal in the modified and standard SPMC.
PG drawing another distinction between standard SPMC and modded SPMC about payments made if a branch moves.
NB agrees the difference exists.
PG has just described the NFSP as an independent organisation which provides support to SPMRs.
He is talking about contract modifications in the newer NTC (network transformation contract)
PG asks about his negotiations with the NFSP

over the NTC and notes the liability for losses clause and how it changed. PG says although the language changed, the substance of the issue didn’t. 
NB agrees
PG now asking about 12 month notice period in NTC. That was a change in favour of SPMRs. On paper.
NB agrees.
PG asks how NTC was better for SPMRs
NB it was part of a wider NT programme…

NB that programme came with it a huge amount of investment from the government, SPMRs could refresh their stores, save money by changing the way the sold products…
judge says I think you were asked about the contract.

NB I think it gave them clarity on their responsibilities and allowed them to focus on running their business.
PG is looking at termination clauses in NTC.

Clause on termination if SPMR “fails to properly account for any money or stock” belonging to PO
PG so it’s right to say that the right of appeal was completely removed?
NB correct
PG goes back to the standard SPMC p1 - 23 contain general terms of SPMR appt. 
p14 “no breach of rules will be excused on the grounds of ignorance”
PG explain what your understanding of the rules are
NB this is in the 1994 SPMC. I didn’t write this
Judge: "I don’t think you’re being accused of writing it…”
NB gives explanation of the various documents an SPMR would expect to find in branch and how the rules would be contained therein.
PG now discussing the Manual and what that entails - the operation of the counter, the Horizon operating instructions, individual instruction from PO, updates to procedures etc. They agree this is a big bunch of sometimes big documents...

PG Discussing self-reporting obligation in new NTC. Did you know it was new?
NB don’t remember
PG Do you remember discussing it with the NFSP
NB No I don’t remember
PG now talking about branch focus the magazine for SPMRs
PG weekly?
NB yes but no longer paper copies since 2013.
PG draws his attention to a specific article in an issues entitled “Getting ready for summer”
PG are these instructions or advice?
NB don’t know I’d have to read it for sure.
PG talking about a specific "summer sizzlers” promotion. Is that an obligation on the SPMRs to do this?
NB I would say it was yes. I would also say if they failed to do this it wouldn’t be a contractual matter we would take up with them necessarily.
PG notes an example where SPMRs are told not to tell customers about a new promotion coming through. is that a contractual obligation?
NB yes as branch focus is part of the rules they need to follow
PG asks what if someone comes in asking for currency for a holiday and is told - best wait till next week. Is that a breach?
NB technically yes
PG would it have to be self-reported?
NB it’s not the sort of thing...
… we would take it up.
PG have a look a the rules
NB it says “material breach” i would not consider that a material breach.
PG so it depends on which customer they are talking to
NB and the fact you said it was the next day
PG what if the sums were huge
The obligation in branch focus was general to stop competitors from finding out about a new promotion. the specific example you just gave me is hypothetical of course, but the way you’ve explained it - no I would consider that a breach of contract.

we break for 10 mins.
We’re back. Nick Beal for the PO being xe’d by PG. I’m going to call him QC actually so you know what’s going on. PG is the claimants’ QC and I did the same with the PO QC David Cavender...
PG taking NB through his evidence re the list of changes to the PO contract down the years that he provided to the court. PG asks where it came from.
NB our legal team
[PO legal team used to be called Bond Dickinson - they are now Womble Bond Dickinson, which is a great name]

PG picking up a list provided by WBD - then BD - to a previous request and the one NB provided. Broadly the same, aren’t they?
NB broadly agrees
PG shows a big gap between two changes in the list of 9 years
PG thinking now - any material variations in that period?
NB not that...

NB …. I can recall.
QC points out a change wrt to a change in procedures which introduces financial penalties and training for SPMRs at their cost if their standards drop below requirement.
NB I don’t recall this
QC goes to letter which summarizes contractual

… obligations set out over the past few months in Operational Focus.
PG is this the successor to Branch Focus?
NB I don’t know.
PG reads out a specific change to procedure from this letter and contrasting it against the rules on performance in branch standards...

I think. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on documents I can’t see.
We’re now looking at a branch standards booklet. When I say looking, they are. We hacks are just listening. I’m sure we’ll get to QC’s point soon.

QC explain to the court the difference between operational instructions and Operational Focus
NB I don’t know.
QC These instructions are referred to as branch standards. Is that all of the instructions or some of them?
NB I don’t know.

QC PO could require SPMR to pay for compliance training, including travel, where standards have not been reached.
NB reasonable costs, yes.
QC and some of these branches are quite remote
NB some yes
QC gets to letter to Pam Stubbs…
it shows outstanding debt 12 Feb 2010...
at the bottom there it says transactions due for this period £8K - total account balance c £17K - please settle this account by 25 Feb 2010 - by cheque in pre-paid envelope or debit
QC is that a postal instruction
NB it’s a request for payment
QC PO regards it as a debt...

… owed by PS
QC I understand it is a request for payment, but is it a postal instruction?
NB yes it is wrt to her contractual liability
QC asks him to look at memo from 8 Feb - where PS is being told request for payments will be put on hold whilst an investigation takes place.
Now that - says QC - is not an instruction - it is a notification?
NB yes.

QC goes to 11 march memo
QC please see attached request for payment which has been settled centrally for PO - failure to meet repayment terms by 21 March will lead us with approval from contract manager...

… to deduct the amount outstanding from your future remuneration. Is this a Postal Instruction?
NB it’s an instruction to her to pay the debts in the context of her contract. I don’t know whether you’d call that a Postal Instruction or not. So I don’t know.
We go back to negotiation of Network Transformation Contract (NTC) with the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP). QC asks about the difference between Post Office Large, PO Mains and PO local. Says remuneration structure is different...

sorry - NB says … requirements of space and services on offer is different.
QC takes him to a pleading - PO’s case in defending individual claim of Mr Alan Bates (head of Justice or Subpostmasers Alliance) about what implied terms, if any, exist in the SPMC
QC notes in the pleading that PO can change SPMC with and without the agreement of the NFSP. It is admitted that there is an implied term in the contract that would stop PO from changing the contract dishonestly or in an arbitrary capricious manner.

NB says all changes to contract are discussed with the NFSP - they won’t agree to all of them, but we still discuss them. 
QC says the distinction is important. Changes with agreement and changes without agreement.
QC points out this stipulation in the pleading...

QC says admission by the PO that it won’t change contract dishonestly capriciously or arbitrarily is confined to the clause where there is NO agreement with the NFSP. 
QC says would it ever happen that the PO would change the contract dishonestly capriciously or arbitrarily
All agree that such a situation would be ridiculous.
NB I would not expect any changes to be made dishonestly, capriciously or arbitrarily about anything.
QC no one would!
NB [nods]
QC youre nodding
NB sorry, I agree
Both QC and NB both agree it would be totally ridiculous for the PO to make any dishonest, capricous or arbitrary changes to any contract, whether it has the agreement of the NFSP or not.

THEY HAVE SPENT ABOUT 5 MINUTES ON THIS.

Oh. we’ve moved on.

QC you explained in your WS the role of the NFSP - an independent org repping SPMRs. They were as a trades union?
NB yes the were
QC deregistered I think in 2012/3
QC NFSP became a trade association funded by the Post Office in 2015
NB yes
QC but the agreement allowed the NFSP to remain independent from the PO
QC draws attention to AvdB’s WS assertion that NFSP supports PO’s assertion that H is robust. And it supported the NTC.
QC moves to opening statement of defence by PO in which it says the SPMs...

… are small in number and the NFSP supports the PO’s position on the factual basis of this claim. Asks NB if they support H
NB says in the select committee the then GS did
QC what about the helpline?
NB haven’t discussed it recently
QC have you ever?
NB it will have come up yes
QC draws attention to NFSP purchase order for £250K to PO for activities in support of network transformation. 
QC so PO was paying NFSP for it’s support of NTC
NB it was for support activities around the implementation of NTC
btw Judge intervened about 5 mins ago to say “everyone comes to this court with a clean slate… I don’t particularly care what the NFSP thinks”
QC says “bear with me and I’ll… make it good, my Lord"

QC describes NFSP to PO memo ahead of NTC discussions - “dear Sue and Nick 23 want to set out a few things ahead of our meeting - including 23 months compensation for compulsory leavers”
QC some SPMRs were not given the oppo to stay on their old contract under NTC
NB agrees
QC there is a long-standing agreement with the NFSP regarding compensation of 26 months for SPMRS on termination
NB this is only when the PO does not wish to continue to offer services in that location
QC that’s my point - if there is termination, there is no payment...

QC if there is resignation to avoid termination - there is no payment
NB well actually if there is any resignation and the PO wishes to continue services, there is no 26 month payment from the discretionary fund.
QC notes Post office and NFSP signed a 15 year contract which mandates NFSP to serve all SPMRs. NFSP will get millions a year in exchange for dropping its membership subs. QC says NFSP was negotiating for its own survival whilst negotiating the NTC contract.
NB they were negotiating for the grant agreement at the same time as dropping of the membership subs… 
QC look at the line “please note a signed agreement with the blood of myself and Paula, that’s Paula Vennels, the Chief Executive...

… of the Post Office, is necessary on the future of the NFSP before any agreement on the NT and other points”
QC they’re linked, aren’t they?
NB explains what the NFSP were up to
QC would you think that a SPMR would expect the NFSP to be doing this whilst supposedly representing their interest?
NB I don’t know because I’m not a subpostmaster

Judge has asked about a statement made in passing by PG QC about documents he got last night. Judge wants to know how many documents he received last night - 350 pages of emails in 45 different changes.
Judge says he is not prepared to deal with a case of this importance which includes obviously necessary documentation being disclosed so late. Not acceptable. Orders a witness statement from the Post Office solicitors to be given to him by 4pm tomorrow explaining the delay.
We’ve had lunch. We’re now back to JFSA QC Patrick Green’s cross-examination of Nick Beal, Head of Agents’ Development and Remuneration at the Post Office.
QC now discussing an FOI about a request into NFSP’s change from a union to a limited company...
Which must be a historic first by anyone’s reckoning.
QC asking if he was involved in the decision as to whether to grant the FOI.
NB says he must have been.

QC notes the response saying we do have the info, but we have to balance it with commercial sensitivity etc
QC says Mark Baker from the CWU (who wrote the original letter) comes back saying you’re a public body, pls send the info
QC what happened next?
NB explains process
NB points out this agreement was eventually published on the NFSP website
NB confirms he was involved in this decisoin re the FOI
QC says but at the time of the FOI there was no indication it would be published in the future.
NB agrees
QC says you weren’t thinking about commercial confidentiality when you were prevaricating on giving this information
NB we were
QC why didn’t you tell mr baker
NB I don’t know
QC Mark Baker he will take this up with the information commissioner as the PO is not complying
PO sends a letter back to Mr Baker saying it’s being held back because of future publication
Mark Baker sends another letter saying you’ve changed your mind…

Whilst this to-ing and fro-ing is happening - it’s worth introducing you to Mr Baker - he is @CWUPostmaster
mentions and he was in court yesterday, but is not in court today to hear is name being discussed.

Mark Baker asks in a letter for the date on which the decision to publish the agreement was made.

QC you didn’t give it to him - why not?

NB don’t think it was made on any one date
mentions Judge asks in plain English how that is possible.
NB explains the process by which the decision was come to.
mentions Judge is starting to query why PG QC is pursuing this line.

QC notes a line in the agreement with the PO whereby the NFSP is prevented from doing anything that could materially harm the Post Office.

QC This action has been described as an existential threat to the PO
mentions QC so does this action fall under the terms of that grant agreement?
NB I don’t know
QC "so the NFSP cannot support this litigation because of the terms of your grant?”
NB I don’t know
QC points out that this action could materially affect the reputation of the pO
NB agrees
mentions QC goes into the implications for the NFSP’s grant if it were to support the litigation. It would essentially give the PO the right to claw it back.
mentions QC says and you wanted to keep that confidential
NB no it was always our intention to publish it

QC says but you wanted to keep those clauses about bringing PO into disrepute confidential?
NB No. We always intended to publish the document.
mentions The point PG QC is making is that the NFSP is in the pocket of the PO.
Judge intervenes to say to PG QC - whether your point is that the NFSP are contractually prevented from supporting this litigation, or because they’re being paid too much money by the PO - you’ve made yr point
QC goes back to a specific case where an SPM wants help from the helpline and cannot get help, so they turn to the NFSP for assistance.
SPMR wanted to sell her office, and wanted confirmation from PO about its future under the NT - QC notes that the NFSP rep in the letter is calling the helpline the hell-line.
NB l and p are quite close to the keyboard.

QC there’s a dash between hell - and line.
[there is a pause]
Judge  -the point is noted
QC the letter also mentions scripts 
NB they were scripts there to help people in that situation
Judge who provided those scripts? The PO
NB yes.
Advice eventually given that they either resign and lose their termination payment or they wait.
Judge points out that this point was accepted by the witness this morning.
PG says yes but this is a specific SPMR

Judge says well I don’t think it’s a controversial point, but we’d better find out.
NB indicates it is not controversial
PG QC finishes
PO QC stands up and asks a couple of questions about the date of introduction of various contracts. Had the NTC contract started being used in 2013?
NB Yes
PO QC goes back to the signed in blood NFSP document - aug 2013 - which required negotiation on NTC matters
PO QC asks what is that referring to?
NB it's referring to the revised terms - specifically the amount of compensation leaving SPMs will get.
PO QC so this was about how the NTC was going to be implemented as the terms of the contract itself had already been agreed?
NB I believe so, yes.

Sorry - drifted off there. The PO QC drew NB’s attention to a document which in NB’s mind shows the intention to publish the grant agreement with the NFSP was always intended.
Judge now asking if he knew about the difference in the drafting between the liability clause (responsibility for losses) until it was drawn to his attention?
NB may have done but it wasn’t front of mind
Judge how would you express it now?
NB does a pretty good 12:12 from memory

Judge - why, in terms of policy or any other reason, would a letter of termination not give the SPMR receiving it a reason for their termination
NB no immediate reason springs to mind
Judge onto witness statement - point put to you they were very similar to those compiled by the PO’s legal team. Why is there a 9 year gap between variations.
NB don’t know

Judge why did you start these variations from 2002
NB that’s when I believed Horizon was rolled out to most branches
Judge okay thank you you are free to go.
New PO witness, Paul Williams, being sworn in. I think he dealt with the appointment of SPMRs in the 90s.

Maybe, maybe not. Mr Williams is the “Restrictions Advisor” for the Post Office.
He did! “In 1992 I was… in charge of recruitment and remuneration for SPMRS.”
Then became a PO HR advisor in 1999
In 2000 Mr Williams moved into Subpostmaster contract role.

PW I’ve been doing it a long time - they are rather long documents but you get to know them quite well.
QC says your office dealt with Mr Alan Bates appointment [Bates is bringing this whole class action against the Post Office]
PW confirms they did but he did not have any personal involvement.

QC showing PW AB’s letter of employment. It says: "please find enclosed with this letter two copies of list of the main conditions attached to your employment. Sign one copy and return it to the agency recruitment manager."
QC picks up on “conditions of employment” term and note the clause which gives an SPMR 75% salary in the first 12 months. Explain that please.
PW it was a standard term, says new SPMR might underperform, drive away customers etc
QC so the SPMR might be entitled to think..

… their employment might be a little more long term than 12 months.
PW that’s fair enough
QC and he’s being asked to install a national lottery terminal which has a cost attached, but he should or might defray that cost by selling tickets
PW that’s not unfair

Judge asks PW to speak up
PW Pardon?
PW Oh - sorry. I thought I was shouting
Judge [booming] you can never speak too loudly in a room of this size
QC draws attention to a welsh language provision 
PW this was a standard provision
QC notes “it is expected you will render a personal service to the Post Office” PO prefer SPMR to provide a personal service
PW wouldn’t say preferred
PW it was expected

QC they got a contractual benefit from providing a minimum of 18 hours personal service. so it was a contractual benefit
PW yes
QC is it fair to say there are sensitivities around calling SPMRs employees?
NB yep - there were tribunals in the 90s...

PW and we sincerely believe they are not employees and it’s important to be precise in our language.
QC describes a document in which “dismissal” “employee” and “employment” is not used - yet personal service is something which is considered part of employment...
We had a break, we’re back. Final session of the day. Paul Williams still in the stand for the PO. PG QC questioning him for the claimants.

QC this personal services element to Mr Bates letter of employment was a standard document
PW no I disagree - this might have been something prepared for mr Bates specifically - although documents like this could be used elsewhere

QC “the incoming postmaster WILL provide a personal service of not less than 18 hours services a week” these are conditions of appointment. This is contractual, isn’t it?
PW [rambles about generalities]
Judge you’re being asked about this specific document

QC This is an internal doc on what has been agreed with Mr Bates.
PW yes [but goes on to not quite accept it is a contractual agreement]
QC points out Alan Bates did not get this is the reason this recorded internally, but not on the document AB signs so there’s no...

… record of an agreement held by the SPMR that they are providing a personal service.
PW a qualified yes.
Please note I didn’t catch all of PW’s qualification and it may have been a very good one. These notes are paraphrases NOT direct quotes unless they are in quote marks...
QC would Mr Bates get his SPMC
PW yes

QC but it doesn’t say that does it, it says it contains conditions of your employment, but nothing about the SPMC which it would, if it was included. And that’s a standard letter.
QC we say the contract of employment was not sent with this letter
PW - no. by this time - by AB’s - time - it was standard practice to include a copt of the contract in the letter of appointment.

QC and it had been for years?
PW since about 1995/6
QC why would it be satisfactory to ensure that an SPMR would only get their contract on the day of their employment?
PW well when I started in my NW area it wasn’t satisfactory
QC so other areas weren’t doing it
PW well…
QC if you say you started doing it - you are suggesting

… others didn’t.
PW says its’ possible some areas around the country weren’t doing it - that changed when we started recruiting nationally.
QC so it is possible AB did not get his contract - you didn’t send him it personally
PW no my team would have
QC but it’s possible they didn’t
PQ yes it’s possible that he didn’t get sent a contract but I don’t remember any SPMRs getting int touch to say they hadn’t had their contract
Judge - so you’re relying on SPMRs to get in touch to tell you they don’t...

… have their contract.
PW yes.

In the same way the PO QC was very keen to make the judge believe all the lead claimants did get their contract, Mr Green seems to want to shed doubt on this.

I guess if you don’t get the contract, you might not be under contract, so how can you

… be held liable for errors if you’re not properly under contract. [that’s my musings btw - not anything that was said in court!]
I don’t know the law in this area so I will stay out of it. Sorry. Back to the discussion.

On to transfer day:

QC they are committed to the Post Office at that stage so they pretty much have to sign what’s put in front of them
PW that’s fair
PW has also admitted they could have done better in making some of the documentation or contractual responsibilities clearer to SPMRs as the Post Office was “teased away” from being a government departement to a limited company.

QC notes there were doubts expressed by auditors from the early 90s about the ability of SPMRs to understand all their contractual responsibilities.
PW agrees.
QC notes that in the pre-Horizon days the 12:12 clause exists - SPMRs by error negligence of them or their assistants they are liable for all losses in branch.
QC moves onto losses and gains. Refers to a docu dated 20 Nov 1998: Introduction of Purpose. It is a policy document by the Counter to Risk Committee (or something that sounds very similar)

Computer is having its afternoon doze. Am going to reboot.

And we’re back.
Patrick Green QC has gone back to Pam Stubbs’ case - asked if PW had anything to do with her taking on a Post Office the day after her husband died and the document she signed that day.
PW No. I was northern territory

QC reads from letter of appointment of Pam Stubbs “PO will endeavour to support you through every stage of your appointment”. That was a standard letter wasn’t it?
PW yep
QC and let’s have a look at Alan Bates letter of appt. That was a standard letter too
PW yep
QC says your evidence is about what should or would have happened

PW it’s my recollection of processes 20 years ago. I have no clear recollection of the letters in hand, but I remember how my department was run and that included things like send out the SPMC as we should
And that if anyone asked for information we would help them

QC it’s been suggested that incoming SPMRs would be able to get info about the SPMC from the outgoing SPMRs. Was outgoing SPMR authorised to do this
PW on behalf of SPMR no - but they had every right to.
Correction - that should say:

PW on behalf of Post Office no - but they had every right to.
QC the death in service policy that you described was not followed in Pam Stubbs’ case.
PW I don’t know - there isn’t enough evidence to show what happened. [explains what usually happens]
PW Colin were were in touch, but perhaps we could be more sympathetic
QC she didn’t say you weren’t sympathetic, it’s that there was no application completed at all.
PW I can accept there may have been an informal transfer process that I would expect to be followed up...

… by a more formal process, albeit a truncated one, but there isn’t really enough information here to comment at all.
JFSA QC sits down.

PO QC stands up and goes back to the internal memo showing that Alan Bates was going to provide 18 hours personal service. Was it a stipulation or a notification?
PW the latter
QC what if he didn’t do it, was it a breach of contract?
PW No
PO QC what if he had ticked the box that he wasn’t going to provide 18 hours personal service - would that be a contract NOT to give a personal service
PW No.
QC why do you think you got the SPMC sent to AB
PW it’s what we did

QC How big is the contract?
PW 114 pages
QC how obvious would it be if it hadn’t been put in the pack?
PW self evident - that’s why I’m confident it would have been sent
QC how confident are you in the skill of your team
PW v confident. I had tremendous confidence in my team
QC ever receive any complaints about your...

… team?
PW No
PO QC has no further questions

Judge wants to know about his use of the word evidence wrt to a specific question and PW confirms he’s talking about contemporaneous document, not claimant evidence.
Judge also wants to know about

Rules, Postal Instructions and PWs admission that the language of the documents might not be clear enough.
Judge says he has to decide under what terms the SPMRS were actually engaged and PW used the terms
“lots of bits of paper"

Judge asks was he ever involved in an effort to simplify or codify all the documents into one document.
PW No.

PW leaves the box. 
Judge “Timetable, please Mr Green”
PG explains he wants to do two witnesses on Monday start Angela van den Bogerd if he can on Monday

Judge says he wants her done with by end of Tuesday. Mr Green protests as AvdB covers such a huge area. Judge points out he then has 7 witnesses for the next 2 days. Says there will be a ‘hard start” with the PO’s Mr Howarth on Mon 26th. PG agrees.

Judge now moves on to third trial.
He wants summer 2019.
PG stands up and says something about shifting the Horizon trial. Judge has already ordered this should be a 5 week trial starting 11 March.

PG then says he wants a mediation afterwards.
Judge says he can have a mediation at any time.

PG says my experience suggests that it would be better after the trial.
Judge says my only view is to move this group litigation forwards.

PG is speaking for himself and DC QC and says a mediation will help the litigation.
Judge really doesn’t see why he should wait until after summer - a gap of 6 months between Horizon trial and 3rd trial.

Judge clearly wants June 2019 on another lead issue, final resolution on some of the claims or final resolution on test claims.

Points out if we get common issues cleared, horizon issues cleared, then it is probably best to have a small number of claimants personal situations tried, perhaps less than 6 not necessarily any of these lead claimants. Perhaps even just two - one each identified by...

claimant and defendant. Judge has identified 5 June as possible (and I think in his view, preferential) start.

He rises. We are back at 10.30am Monday.

Thanks for reading this if you liked it please go to
paypal.com
and put some cash in the paypal tip jar...

… what am I talking about - go to postofficetrial.com and put some cash in the paypal tip jar. I’ll put up all the tweets in order on postofficetrial.com and then a full match report later.

Donations of more than £20 get the secret email and blog posts via email…

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No court tomorrow - and I’ve got another job on so that it on this story til Monday. ta-ra.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Bates v Post Office: Louise Dar's Witness Statement

You can see the pdf on Scribd here, or the embed below. Below that is a searchable version scraped from the pdf, but there will be mistakes in it. In ALL instances, check it against the pdf which is the authoritative statement at ALL times:


Louise Dar Witness Statement, Bates v Post Office Common Issues Trial by Nick Wallis on Scribd


Claimants
Name of witness: L P Dar
No. of statement: 1st
No. of exhibits: LD1
Date: 10 August 2018
THE POST OFFICE GROUP LITIGATION

Claim Numbers: HQ16X01238, HQ17X02637 & HQ17X04248
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION

BETWEEN:


ALAN BATES & OTHERS
Claimants

-and-

POST OFFICE LIMITED
Defendant

WITNESS STATEMENT OF LOUISE PATERSON DAR

Louise Paterson Dar of will say as follows:

1. I was Subpostmaster of the Lenzie branch, located at 118 Kirkintilloch Road, Lenzie,
Glasgow, from 19 November 2014 to 27 March 2017 when Post Office summarily terminated
my appointment.

2. I am currently employed by Teleperformance UK as a customer service advisor, supporting
customer passport applications and progress.

3. I am Claimant number 261 and a Lead Claimant for the purposes of the Common Issues trial,
and make this Witness Statement in relation to the Common Issues as defined in Schedule
1 of the First CMC Order.

4. The matters stated within this Witness Statement are true to the best of my knowledge and
belief. Unless otherwise stated, the facts contained in this witness statement are within my
own knowledge and are true. Where they are not within my own knowledge they are derived
from the sources to which I refer and are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Exhibited to this statement is a paginated bundle of documents marked LD1. References in
this witness statement in the form [LDI/number] are to pages of that exhibit.

1A. BACKGROUND

5. Between 2006 and 2011 I was employed by Hilton Hotels as an IT support helpdesk analyst.
In this role I logged calls from Hilton staff, investigated and sought to resolve users’ IT issues
and was involved in providing staff training. I developed good IT skills in this role, and was
involved in testing and programming the Hilton Hotels reservation system. The reservations
system which was in use (Fidelio), was in some ways similar to Horizon, but it was a more
advanced system than Horizon, which I came to discover was more basic, older technology.
I expect that because of my IT background, I had greater IT skills than most other
Subpostmasters.

6. In 2011, I was made redundant, and in August 2012 I set up a retail business with my
husband Rehman, the Day Today Express Lenzie. The Day Today Express was a local
convenience store, selling groceries, confectionary and other every day essential items. The
shop was located at 118 Kirkintilloch Road, a few doors away from the Post Office branch at
94 Kirkintilloch Road, which was at the time run by the Subpostmaster Mr Jaspal Singh Toor.

7. In August or September 2012, I learned Mr Toor, intended to resign because of a proposed
change to his contract with Post Office. My husband’s family had known Mr Toor for some
years, he was a quiet man and did not speak about business very often, but he told us that
Post Office was going to change his contract, he felt that this would make the business
unviable for him, and that he thought he had no option but to move on from the branch.

8. Having recently opened the Day Today Express, I was interested in the opportunity to run
the Lenzie Post Office branch. I thought Post Office was a big company with old fashioned
values, which was at the centre of the community. I expected Post Office to be a good
company to work with, and that I would be able to build a good future for my family. Post
Office had a respectable reputation, and throughout the appointment process, Post Office
came across as approachable and supportive. I remember they provided me with glossy
brochures about how they would support and help me and that I could build my future with
them. I thought that running a branch would be a positive challenge, and that it would be
worthwhile. I very much understood this would be a long term commitment, I thought this
would be for good.

2 C1/5/2 B. APPOINTMENT PROCESS

Registering my Interest

9. Soon after becoming aware of the position from MrToor, above, in around September 2012.
a Post Office representative Elizabeth Hammerton visited me in my shop. Ms Hammerton
was very friendly, talking about Mr Toor moving on from his branch, and encouraging me to
consider the possibility of taking on the branch within Day to Day Express. I would say she
was upselling this opportunity to me. She said it would be good for the shop and good for
the area. She gave me an information leaflet about the Network Transformation Programme,
I no longer have a copy of this leaflet, but I believe it was a glossy leaflet, smaller than an A4
sheet of paper.

10. Soon after this visit, I registered my interest on the Post Office’s website online, as Ms
Hammerton had advised me to do. I didn’t hear anything back about that application, so in
early November 2012, I telephoned Post Office to check whether they could give me an
update, but was told that there was no record of my registration. I gave all of my information
to the Post Office representative again. I was told that no decisions would be made without
including me in the process and that someone from Post Office would visit to conduct a
survey.

11. I didn’t hear anything further until 2013, when I heard that the Lenzie branch would be moving
to another location, on Gallowhill Road. I called Post Office again and was again told that
there was no record that I had registered an interest. The representative on the telephone,
told me that I would need to provide proof of having registered my interest. I did not have any
documents from Post Office to confirm this, so I was unable to produce this evidence. I was
told that the transfer of the branch had already been agreed and there was nothing that could
be done about it.

12. On 17 April 2013, I sent an email addressed to the Post Office Transformation Team,
to explain the efforts I had made to register and the events above, and to make the case for
the Lenzie branch to be relocated into my shop. I also completed a customer feedback form

13. I then received a call from a Post Office representative, Ms Connie Hewitt, who met with me
on 24 April 2013, accompanied by her colleague Shirley Hailstones. Ms Hewitt questioned
me whether I had in fact applied or not, but told me that they would look into it. As I recall
during this visit Ms Hewitt said or indicated that the Day Today Express premises would not
be big enough for a branch anyway.

14. After emailing again on 20 May 2013, I was told by Ms Hewitt that at the end of the
consultation period the following month all feedback would be reviewed and Post Office would make a decision.

15. As I recall the consultation period was in fact extended again, and looking at my email of 22  July 2013 in which I sought confirmation that my application had been received, it is possible that I applied again. I think the reason I referred in that email to the branch operating from the existing branch premises was because of the concerns which Ms Hewitt had expressed to be about the size of the Day Today Express when she had visited the shop. My preference had always been that the branch operate from the shop premises, but I thought that I had to make this change in order for my application to be considered.

16. Post Office responded to say that again there was no record of my application, but after registering again via a link emailed to me, I did finally receive an acknowledgement of my application.

17.1 am confident that I had submitted the earlier applications correctly and believe it was a fault
in Post Office’s systems which led to problems I have explained above.

Discussions with Mr Toor

18.1 spoke a little to Mr Toor over this period, and my husband also had some discussions with
him. I cannot now recall exactly what was said, and Mr Toor is quite a private person, so
these were not lengthy discussions. I recall Mr Toor did explain a bit about his product
breakdown, and which Post Office products and services made good sales, and said that
motor vehicle licensing was important and generated revenue. He said to make sure my
documents were in order (which I later did), he showed me how he stored documents. He
also showed me the rough set up of the branch for example where the safe was.

19.1 didn’t ask Mr Toor for a copy of his contract, I thought this was a document which was
personal to him. The whole point of Mr Toor moving on from the branch was that the Post
Office contract was changing. He also didn’t show me any operations manual or other
documents, and I did not have any access to these types of documents until my own branch
opening.

20.1 did not discuss anything with Mr Toor about shortfalls or problems with Horizon, and he
didn’t raise any particular problems or say he had experienced any unexplained shortfalls.

Application Process

21. On 9 August 2013, I received an email from Ms Sharon Bohanna in Post Office’s Agent
Application Team, The email attached a link to an online application form, a link
to download a standard form business plan, and a zip file of additional documents, including
a restrictions policy a guide to assist with preparation of the business plan
a guide how to save the business plan in the correct format, a checklist of supporting evidence for the business plan, glossary of terms, a consent form for criminal record checks to be carried out, a pro form, and an interview preparation guide.

22.1 read these documents. In the interview preparation guide there was reference to a sense of
pride, and a requirement to “Share with us why you want to be part of our Post Office
community, operating a Post Office branch”, which fitted with my expectations about
how it would be working with Post Office.

23.1 completed the online application form, although Post Office has not disclosed a copy of this
and I do not have a copy.

24.1 remember reading the restrictions policy and having questions about whether we would be
able to have lottery through the Post Office and whether there would be restrictions on the
types of envelope we could sell. I believe I raised these with Post Office at this time.

25. The email I was sent from Post Office on 30 August 2013 attaching a fees booklet
and confirming that the branch would retain the motor vehicles licence transactions was I believe prompted by discussions I had had around this time with Post Office, following the discussions I had with Mr Toor, about his product breakdown, as I have explained above.

26. Although I was keen to take on the Post Office branch, I had some reservations about doing
so with the branch in a separate premises rather than the Day Today Express as I had
originally hoped. I was concerned about the finances for a number of reasons, including the
council tax effects of having two properties. I contacted Post Office about this around this
time because I wanted some reassurances from Post Office about my income. I can see from Post Office’s internal emails dated 4 September 2013 that a visit with me was
arranged as a result. I was given an extension of time to complete my business plan as
recorded in those emails.

27. On 18 September 2013, Ms. Bohanna sent me an email attaching a copy of what she described as the latest business plan, I believe this was an updated version of the standard form business plan I had previously been sent a link to.

28. Over this period I was working to complete the standard form business plan. I can see that
on 19 September 2013, Ms Grant sent me an email referring to the business plan I had been emailed the previous day and also saying I had been posted an information pack and “a general draft contract. I do not recalling receiving any documents in the post around this time, and do not believe I received any form of draft contract at this time.

29.1 was under pressure to complete the business plan on time and exchanged some emails
with Ms Grant about extending the time for this who was helpful and supportive and arranged a short extension.

30. On 15 October 2013 I emailed Ms Grant, attaching a business plan and my CV. The business plan was for the branch to operate at 94 Kirkintilloch Road, i.e. the existing branch premises. I used figures from Mr Toor to complete the information about previous accounts on [p69], which I had discussed with my accountant. I explained in my email to Ms Grant that Mr Toor hadn’t given me much information to work with.

31. On 22 October 2013, Ms Hammerton sent me an email attaching a document titled
“Generic Products & Services Available for PO Local ”, which was a list of products that Post Office local branches could sell, and a document titled “Network Transformation Programme” [LD1/79-99] which provided a fees estimate for the branch. I must have already been provided with that information before completing my business plan, because I had used the lower and upper range estimates (£18,700 and £20,800) as my profit projections for years 1 and 2 in my business plan. There was a red highlighted “Note & Warning” on the first page of the document which stressed that the fees were estimates only and that I should not rely on them. Obviously I did in reality have to rely on these figures.
32. I responded to Ms Hammerton on 24 October 2013, attaching a copy of the
business plan that I had submitted, and explaining that somehow Post Office’s website was again recording that I was not registered, and despite being promised a call back I had not received one. I later sent the supporting documents to Post Office special delivery, as I referred to in my email to Ms Grant.

33. On 29 October 2013,1 received an email from Ms. Bohanna requesting further
documents to be sent, including a fuller explanation of the increase in sales I was projecting.
I did as was asked by Ms Bohanna, and I also completed the online application, which
generated automated emails on 29 October 2013 and I responded to Ms Bohanna by email on 1 November 2013 to confirm that I had provided all the information requested, and attached to that email a word document which provided additional detail about my profit projections. I also attached an updated business plan, which made some amendments, including to record that I would be receiving £1,000 as a family gift.

34. This prompted an email from Ms Bohanna on 5 November 2013 to say I needed
to provide evidence of the £1,000 gift, which she said would need to be both a letter from my
father in law “giving the amount and terms of the loan” and his bank statement showing that
he has the funds in place within 7 days. I thought these were unreasonable requests and it
was not easy for me to provide this information because my father in law lives in Pakistan.
In the end, after a phone call to Ms Hammerton, I sent an email to Ms Bohanna on 11
November 2013 [LD1/122], attaching a further revised business plan [LD1/123-131], in {E5/61/1-9}
which I removed the reference to the £1,000 entirely.

35. On 14 November I received an automated email which stated that my application had been
forwarded for financial assessment and that “The analyst will complete a report and decide
on the outcome of this stage of the application”. I did not see any report at the time, and Post
Office have not disclosed a copy of this report to me.

Interview

36. On 18 November 2013 Ms Bohanna sent me an email [LD1/132], giving me a provisional
interview date of 6 December 2013. Her email said that she had attached a guide to help
with preparation of my presentation, but there was no attachment. I think I may have
contacted her about this, because on 19 November she sent me a further email subject
{E5/70/1-3}
“Presentation Sheet ’ [LD1/133] , which did have an attachment [LD1/134-136], but in fact this was a guide to assist with presentation of the business plan, which of course I had already
completed.

37. On 19 November 2013 I received by email [LD1/137] what seemed to be an automatically
generated invitation to interview, attaching an information checklist. This email said that my
interview would be recorded. I was told to be familiar with my business plan and to bring
along hard copies of my presentation.

38. My interview was with Brian Trotter, Agents Contracts Advisor. It was rescheduled to 9 December 2013 [LD1/138], for reasons I cannot now recall. I was 8 V2 months pregnant at this time, so it is possible that it was related to this.

39. During the interview I gave my prepared presentation and we discussed the business plan.

40. Following my presentation, Mr Trotter told me that he didn’t think the plan would be financially
viable, and he doubted the likely success of the products I was proposing to sell. At the time,
I thought that Mr Trotter had come to this decision based on my presentation. However, I can
see from later internal emails now disclosed by Post Office (email from Mr Trotter to Ms Marshall, dated 15 January 2014, that it seems the reason Mr Trotter rejected my application was on the basis of the financial information in the business plan. The information in that email was not shared with me by Mr Trotter.

41. During the interview Mr Trotter encouraged me to reapply for the branch, but to operate it
from the Day Today Express premises. This was frustrating as it is what I had wanted to do all along, but had been told it would not be possible. I explained this to Mr Trotter who said he would look into it.

42.1 expressed some reservations to Mr Trotter during the interview about taking on the
responsibility of a Post Office branch but Mr Trotter reassured me that the quality of the
training and support would be very good. He gave me the impression that we would be
working as partners together, and that there would be a good and supportive relationship.

43. Mr Trotter did not provide me with detailed information about Post Office or how it ran its
business. He did say that losses needed to be made good immediately, but I expected these to be minor amounts (pennies or very low value) and that it would be possible to work out where the loss had arisen. At Hilton Hotels, for example, if the wrong payment had been made, it was possible to trace this, and work out where the problem had come from. I did not know at the time that Post Office’s Horizon system was a much older and more basic system than the system at Hilton Hotels. I expected Post Office to have a fully functioning and modern system given the number of financial transactions to be processed. Mr Trotter certainly didn’t tell me that I would be responsible for apparent shortfalls of hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Scoping Visit and Re-submitted Business Plan

44. On 6 January 2014 there was a scoping visit carried out by Ms Hammerton at our shop
premises, the Day Today Express. This visit is referred to in Post Office’s letter to me dated
13 January 2014, Post Office identified works that they would require me to carry out in order for the branch to be located in the shop. The Scoping Report which was enclosed wasn’t very easy to read, but there was a list of actions to be undertaken at my cost as follows: new secure door, old retail desk to be removed, all existing shelving and stock to be removed to fit new desk, new ramp required at front entrance, and a new counter gate to be installed. There were some other actions and requirements dotted through the report. The report recorded that 60% of retail space would be lost using Post Office’s required layout. I would clarify that this must mean 60% of floor space rather than retail space (as this would include shelving on walls).

45. The letter enclosed a plan, but I do not think I was sent the scoping report
photographs. These have been disclosed by Post Office and show the shop premises and
{E5/121/1 -5} layout at this time [LD1/171-175],
{E5/81/1} 46. On 24 January 2014, I sent an email to Mr. Trotter [LD1/176] which attached a revised
{E5/80/1 10} business plan [LD1/177-186], on the basis of the branch being operated from the Day Today
Express at 118 Kirkintilloch Road.
{E5/83/1} 47. On 31 January 2014, Mr Trotter emailed me [LD1/187] to say that my business plan looked
stronger financially but there were some areas to discuss before he submitted it to Post
Office’s finance team. We spoke by phone about some of parts of the plan, and then on 3
{E5/85/1-2} February 2014 Mr Trotter sent me an email [LD1/188-189] with a version of my business
{E5/84/1 -10} Plan which he had revised [LD1/190-199], I found Mr Trotter to be helpful and supportive at
this time.

54.
I made some further minor changes to the business plan and then submitted it to Ms
Bohanna, by email the next day, on 4 February 2014 [LD1/200, LD1/201-210], It seems
from Post Office’s internal emails that there was a lack of communication within Post Office
about events relating to my application, because Ms Bohanna’s 10 February email to Mr
Trotter states that she did not know I would be reapplying [LD1/211-212].
On 18 February 2014 I was resent a set of application documents again, in a standard form
email telling me to complete an application form and business plan [LD1/213-214]. I did find
it frustrating and wasteful of my time to require me to go through this process again.
At this time I sent documents to Post Office, which were returned to me, so I had to send
them back special delivery (as referred to in an internal Post Office email from Ms Clarke to
Mr Trotter on 18 March 2014 [LD1/215-217]).
I again completed an application form [LD1/218-223], An email from Ms Clarke on 26 March
2014 [LD1/224] asked for evidence of the lease for the premises, and said I would need to
obtain new basic disclosure certificates. My husband and I completed new consent forms
for these checks [LD1/225], [LD1/226], I had already sent the lease [LD1/227-257] twice^E5/15/1 31^
already, but I did send it again recorded delivery, as referred to in my email dated 28 March
2014 [LD1/258-260],
On 8 April 2014, Ms Clarke sent me an email [LD1/261], attaching various documents to
prepare for an interview with Mr Trotter on 16 April 2014. No interview in fact took place on
this date.
On 11 April 2014 [LD1/262-263], Ms Clarke sent me an email stating that “Your application
has now been assessed by a financial analyst' but that in order for them to complete the
assessment I would need to send further documents. I was not pleased about the way in
which my application was being handled by Post Office, and started to become concerned
that perhaps Post Office were intending to move the branch to a new location (this is referred
to in an internal Post Office email from Ms Grant dated 11 April 2014 [LD1/264-265]). I did
however send the documents that were requested, recorded delivery, as referred to in my
email of 1 May 2014 [LD1/266-267],
I can see from a Post Office internal email to Mr Trotter dated 13 May 2014 [LD1/268] that
my business plan was assessed by a finance analyst, and was marked as a “pass” but “high
10
C1/5/10
risK'. I was not at the time shown the assessment, and was only told by Ms Clarke that it had
{E5/123/1 -2} passed (email on 20 May 2014 [LD1/269-270]).

Meeting with Mr Trotter

55.1 met with Mr Trotter on 4 June 2014 (noting this date in Mr Trotter’s internal Post Office email
dated 3 June 2014). I would not describe this as an interview, and I do not think Post Office
classed it as an interview at the time.

56. It was quite a relaxed discussion, and Mr Trotter was helpful and friendly. At that meeting,
Mr Trotter told me that my application would be successful, and talked to me about the
training that would be available. He said I would receive training on all aspects of Horizon
system, and emphasised that training would be thorough and that it was classroom training,
not online training.

57. Mr Trotter also emphasised that there was a helpline available, and that I could rely on it. He
said words to the effect that they are on hand, at the end of the phone, at any time you
require. He was reassuring me about the support that would be provided.

58. Mr Trotter said that I would receive a contract and mentioned the possibility of obtaining legal
advice, but he very much conveyed to me that this wasn’t necessary and that I could trust his
word. He indicated that there was nothing too detailed or complex in there. I trusted Mr
Trotter, as he had been very helpful to me throughout the process. I told him that I would get
my dad to read over the contract when I received it, which is in fact what I later did.
59. Very soon after meeting with Mr Trotter on 4 June 2014, I received Post Office’s letter dated
4 June 2014, which confirmed my success at interview. As above, I would not describe my meeting with Mr Trotter as an interview, and I think it is likely this was a standard form Post Office letter. The letter set out the training that I would receive.

60.1 then received a call from Ms Grant on 5 June about VAT registration. As set out in her
email sent dated 5 June, Ms Grant encouraged me to operate as an individual and not a company, because progressing as a company would delay my application. I agreed to progress my application as an individual.

I received a contract and some other documents from Post Office in June. Looking at an
internal Post Office email dated 17 June 2014 [LD1/275-276], it seems likely I received this
on 18 or 19 June. I can see from Post Office’s internal email chain [p276] that they suggest
that I did not receive the first copy they sent to my old address because I had not told them
about my change of address, but this is not correct. I remember that when I moved house, I
called the Network Transformation team by calling the contact number for them, to give them
my new address. I was told that they had made a record of this, but they asked me to write
a letter to confirm this in writing. I recall that I handwrote this letter at my kitchen table and
posted it to the Network Transformation team of Post Office.

To the best of my recollection now, some of the documents I received were contained in a
red wrap-around folder with the title “Modernising your Post Office branch - The Contract'
marked on the outside. I also received a bound set of documents which had
printed on the front “Post Office Network Transformation Programme Contractual Documents
Pack”, This bound set of documents had sticky tabs in places I was required to sign.
Looking carefully at the documents in the bound set of documents, I can
describe them as follows:

a. A page titled “Table of Contents”. This was in fact two lists of items. The first list seems to be guidance for Post Office about what to include in the bound set of documents, rather than a list which for me of what was actually included. For example it had a number of items listed “where applicable", which were not included in my bound set. The second list is a list for documents in the red wraparound folder. Again this isn’t very clear, for example the first entry is just “duplicate documents” and again there are items listed “where applicable”.
b. A 25 document headed “Off Site Local Post Office Agreement”, with sections of appendices as follows:
i. “Preface Part A ”
ii. “Part B Consultation Condition Precedent ”

iv. A signature page

v. “Appendix 1 Works at Branch Premises and Plan” [p290-301], which I think is a copy of the scoping report I have referred to above (at paragraph 44), and was not written in language I would expect in a contract.
vi. “Appendix 2 Equipment”, with crosses in different columns for who orders and
pays for equipment and who maintains it.
vii. “Appendix 3 Conditions of Appointment”
c. A 45 page document headed “Post Office Limited Standard Conditions for the
Operation of a Local Post Office Branch (Off Site, Post Office Limited Cash)”. I
understand this is what Post Office would describe as the standard Network
Transformation Contract (“NTC”)
d. A form to complete my bank details for payment of fees.

64. It was not clear to me which of these documents were standard form documents and which
were specific to me. I previously did not recall if I received a copy of the standard conditions
that Post Office describe as the NTC, but looking again at the bound documents and
understanding what it is that Post Office say is the NTC (as above), I think this was included
in the bound set of documents. What these documents were and how they related was very
unclear to me at the time, and I am still not very clear about it now.

65. Inside the red folder, there was a document headed “PACK", which began with a list of documents said to be included in the folder. I am less certain exactly what was included in this folder, but I believe it included copies of some of the documents which were in the bound set of documents I have referred to above. I believe the bound documents I have referred to above may also have been included in this red folder.

66.1 do not believe this folder included a copy of the Operations Manual, although this appears
to be listed on the page headed “PACK’ (“Manual - 1 copy”). I do not believe I had a copy of
this until branch set up and opening. I note that the list of contents for the red folder which is
included in the bound set of documents does not indicate that a copy of any manual would be provided to me at this time.

67. The document headed “PACK’ then had a list of instructions, the first of which was for all the
signed documents to be returned to Post Office by 26 June 2014. This was less thana week after I received them. I think I must have obtained a short extension to this period because I in fact sent the documents to Post Office on 2 July 2014, as I explain below.

68.1 can see that the instructions suggested I obtain legal advice, and I understand that Post
Office rely on this, but Mr Trotter had played down the need for this in my discussion with him
as I have described above (paragraph 58), and I had told Mr Trotter that I would get my dad
to read over the contract when I received it, which is what I did.

69.1 did my best to understand the documents I was sent and talked through them with my dad,
but neither of us have any legal experience. Post Office did not draw my attention to any
particular provisions of these long documents, and whereas I did think the documents were
confusing, and did not fully understand them, I relied on what Mr Trotter had said about them
and my trust in Post Office overall.

70.1 did not have any opportunity to negotiate the terms of these documents and I understood
that I had to return them without any changes, which is what I did.

71. On 2 July 2014, I returned the documents I was required to sign to Ms Grant at Post Office
by recorded delivery, and sent an email to Ms Grant to the next day to confirm.

72. Post Office then sent me a letter dated 16 July 2014, which was headed “SIGNED
AGREEMENT". This included a version of the bound set of documents, now showing on the signature page that the agreement had been signed by me on 2 July 2014, and Post Office on 15 July 2014.

Shop Works prior to Branch Opening

73. There was a lot of work to do to get the shop ready to open. Some of this work I paid directly
myself, but a lot of the work which Post Office paid for still had to be organised by me, and
required a lot of work obtaining quotes and making arrangements. I had many meetings with
third parties and contractors, to ensure that the requirements of the Post Office were met.

In relation to the ramp for the front entrance, on 11 June 2014 I met with the council to discuss
this, which I emailed Ms Grant about on 11 June 2014, Ultimately the Council would not permit me to install a permanent access ramp, so I agreed with Post Office that I would provide a temporary ramp. Post Office also required me to install a bell for assistance and grab rail, as recorded in Post Office’s internal email on 10 September 2014 I did install a grab rail, but Post Office later decided there was no need for a bell as the counter was right next to the door.

Post Office required me to obtain an asbestos report for the branch, requested by Ms Grant’s
email to me on 4 July 2014, Post Office in fact arranged for this survey to be carried out, but the report was sent directly to me on 21 July 2014 and I emailed Wendy Grant the same day to let her know that I had received it.

Post Office scheduled a meeting, referred to by Post Office as an ISM, on 11 September
2014. Charlie Green, Post Office’s project manager sent me an email on 13 September 2014, attaching notes from the meeting, a letter, lists of approved suppliers and a number of other documents. I believe the text of the letter was supposed to have been copied into a Post Office template, but this had not been done which I did not think was very professional. The notes recorded the works which Post Office required and a timetable for different parts of the works to be carried out
I obtained quotes for the necessary works. It was particularly difficult to get a suitable quote for the secure door, as can be seen from my various emails in October 2014.

I also made enquiries and obtained quotes for joinery works relating to the shop counter and
other works as referred to in my various emails with contractors in September and October |
2014. In addition to obtaining quotations for these works, I was also taking time to meet with contractors and oversee some of the works. For some of the works which {E5/170/1}
{E5/177/1}
were to be funded by Post Office I was still required to pay the contractor directly myself and {E5/178/1 -2
then ask Post Office to reimburse me (see my letter dated 20 November 2014 [LD1/424]). }
In November 2014 Post Office installed Horizon and provided a horizon terminal and also a
pay station at the branch. Around this time Post Office also installed a safe, the Post Office
counter itself, and a security screen.
On 12 November 2014, Post Office issued a Completion Certificate, which myself and Mr
Green each signed [LD1/425-430], The “supporting compulsory photographs” [p428-429],
show how the shop looked from the outside and inside, including signs for Post Office and
15
C1/5/15
{E5/192/6}
pay station, Post Office window stickers, and the new Post Office counter. There were some
minor works still required of me at this stage prior to branch opening [p430].
80.
81.
{E5/126/1-2}
{E5/161/1-2}
{E5/185/1-3}
82.
{E5/186/1-2}
{E5/190/1 -34}
{E5/189/1-2}
83.
84.
{E5/185/1}
Classroom Training
Classroom training prior to branch opening took place between 12 -15 November 2014, in a
training centre at the Springburn Crown Office branch.
The information I had received from Post Office about the training in advance, was the 4 June
2014 letter ([LD1/271-272] referred to above), an email on 24 September 2014 [LD1/431-
432], which included the course content for the 3 days of classroom training, as well as some
information about the plans for in branch training. I had requested in my meeting with Mr
Trotter that my husband Rehman also attend this training, and this was finally confirmed
when we received an email on 7 November addressed to him, also identifying the classroom
course content [LD1/433-435],
These emails referred to three training workbooks, which my husband noticed had not been
sent to us, so he requested copies of these [LD1/436-437], and ultimately we did obtain them
prior to the course beginning. I think a representative of Post Office brought them into the
shop for us. The workbooks were about compliance training [LD1/438-471], and dangerous
{E5/191/1-28}
goods [LD1/472-492] and [LD1/493-520], 1 ;
I would say that the classroom training was quite basic and at 3 days only, it was quite short.
There were 5 or 6 of us on the course, some from local and some from main branches, and
the course covered content for products which would not be offered in our branch, for
example, travel insurance, special stamp books and cashing different types of cheque. We
spent time completing training sheets and role playing transactions with a training terminal,
printer and card reader.
As I recall, the course content did follow the content in the emails which had been sent to
Rehman and me, which was [p433]: Introduction & Health and Safety; Take Over Stock &
Datestamp; Postage, etc.; Royal Mail Inland Services; Automated Products & Reversals;
Security (including Open Plan Working); Regulatory Compliance; E Top Ups & Phonecards;
DWP Cash Cheques; Stock Balancing; Performance Standards Assessment; Introduction to
Horizon; Postal Orders; Cash Management; Banking; Royal Mail International Services;
Customer Service; Post Office Card Account and Redirection of Mail.
16
C1/5/16
{E5/185/1}
{E5/164/1-2}
85. During the training I asked the trainer what we should do if we had problems with balancing
and the trainer said that we should check over the figures and if in doubt, call the helpline. I
asked about troubleshooting and was told that this would be covered during the onsite
training.
86.1 did not find the classroom training to be adequate at all. Given my background as an IT
analyst at Hilton Hotels, I was very aware of the amount of training required to equip users
with the necessary knowledge to enable them to use a complex IT system such as Horizon
and the many complex tasks which a user may need to carry out. In my opinion, the training
should have been far more thorough.
Branch Set Up and Induction Training
87. Set up of the branch took place on 17-18 November 2017. The Post Office auditor present
was Ms Margaret Guthrie. It was her job to set up the branch and to provide induction
training and ongoing support during my first days of operation.
88. On the first day of set up, Ms Guthrie experienced problems logging in to Horizon, and it took
her around 2 hours to even get in to the system.
89. In the weeks leading up to the branch opening, Post Office had delivered various labels,
forms, and other items necessary to set up the counter. There were also deliveries of cash,
stamps and stock which arrived on the first day of set up.
90. It was Ms Guthrie’s job to enter the cash, stamps and stock which had been delivered onto
Horizon, but she made mistakes when she was doing this, so that even before we had even
opened we had an apparent shortfall of £977. I explain this further below.
91. During this period prior to branch opening, Ms Guthrie provided some induction training to
me, my husband Rehman, and our assistant Ms Jasbir Sohi but I do not think this followed
the course content which had been emailed in advance [p433], Ms Guthrie was trying to fix
the problems which I have referred to above.
92. Ms Guthrie taught me how to count and sort cash and stock. She also gave me some
paperwork in a grey folder, which I believe contained the “Horizon Online Cash Declarations
- Top Tips Guide” [LD1/521 -522], This document says that cash declarations must be made
17
C1/5/17
before 19:00 hrs, but Ms Guthrie told me that it didn’t matter what time the declaration was
made, so long as it was made every day.
93. Ms Guthrie did tell me that I would have to make good shortfalls showing on Horizon, and
said I would be lucky if I was only £20 to £30 down when balancing. I was concerned about
this, and specifically asked Ms Guthrie what do if the system wasn’t balancing, but she just
said to call the Helpline and that they would resolve any problems I told Ms Guthrie that I
wasn’t comfortable opening the branch without any troubleshooting training and I asked if
any could be provided, but she didn’t offer me anything more, she told me that I would just
have to get on with it and call the Helpline if I had problems. This is not what I expected, and
it meant that I was left entirely reliant on the Helpline if I had problems.
Branch Opening
94. The branch opened for the first time on the afternoon of 19 November 2014. I believe the
opening time was pushed back from 1 to 2pm because we were not quite ready for 1pm.
There was a lot happening on that day.
{D1.5/3/1}
95. It was during that day that Ms Guthrie gave me a document headed “Acknowledgement of
Appointment’ [LD1/523], We were standing behind the counter at this time, and Ms Guthrie
said that I needed to sign it in order to take control and for the branch to be signed over to
me. Ms Guthrie didn’t explain the document to me, or what any of the terms ‘my agreement’,
the ‘book of rules’ or ‘postal instructions’, were intended to mean. It was not and is not clear
to me what these terms mean, or which documents they include. I didn’t think that I had a
choice whether to sign this document, all the works had been completed and the branch was
due to open that day. I didn’t have any time to consider the document and didn’t understand
that it was something which I might want to consider with a lawyer.
96. Ms Guthrie gave me a copy of the Operations Manual and told me to read it at my leisure. I
understand now that Post Office says that the Operations Manual formed part of my contract,
but this is not something that I understood prior to or during my appointment.
97.1 was also required to sign a number of further documents on that day. These included a
{E5/201/1-2} form called ‘PI 3’ [LD1/524-525] and other documents which I cannot not recall, but I do
remember being asked to sign various items of paperwork on that day. These documents
were not explained to me by Ms Guthrie and were presented to me at around the same time
as the Acknowledgement of Appointment I have referred to above.
18
C1/5/18
On Site Support
98. After branch opening Ms Guthrie stayed on site for 6 or 7 days. She was shadowing me, and
intervening in customer transactions. I often didn’t find her interventions helpful, and she was
sometimes rude to customers. She seemed overwhelmed by the fact that the shop was busy
at particular times of the day, but a main reason for opening the branch in the shop was that
it had existing customers.
99. The Performance Standards Assessment prepared by Ms Guthrie for me on 27 November
{E5/203/1-3} 2014 [LD1/526-528] gives the impression that I was not committed the branch, which I
entirely disagree with. This was always going to be a busy branch, and it was Ms Guthrie
who was not comfortable with that. I had taken on an experienced Post Office assistant, Ms
Sohi, who Ms Guthrie encouraged me to rely on for her experience. I also made sure to read
up on Post Office instructions and guidance available to me when the shop was less busy.
{E5/126/1}
{E5/161/1}
100. Although the letter I had been sent on 4 June 2014 and email I had been sent on 24
September ([p271] and [p431] above) said that Ms Guthrie would support me with my first
balance day, which was 3 December 2014, in fact she was not present that day. Ms Guthrie
attended the Thursday before, on 27 November 2014 and prepared for rollover on that day,
but that was not the same process and this did not assist me with my balancing.
101. Also, although Ms Guthrie said she would come back after opening to give me more
training or support she did not. In fact, the first time Ms Guthrie came back was on 15 July
2015 to carry out an audit, as I explain below.
C. ISSUES AND ASPECTS OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Expectations and Reliance on Post Office
102. My expectations prior to being appointed were that I would be reliant on Post Office and
that I would be like an employee in many ways. I remember that Ms Hammerton would refer
to my “payslips” which was consistent with this. I understand Post Office now describe me
and Post Office as separate businesses, but this is not how it felt at the time during the
appointment process or how I understood it would be in practice. I thought we would be
working in collaboration together.
19
C1/5/19
{E5/17/1-4}
{E5/16/1-2}
{E5/93/1 -2}
{E5/17/1}
103. I didn’t really understand the contractual position, either the documents which I was sent
and signed on 2 July 2014, or the acknowledgement of appointment on 19 November 2014.
I had understood from Mr Trotter that legal advice wasn’t really necessary and there was
nothing too complex or concerning in the contracts. I don’t fully understand now all of the
documents which Post Office say have contractual effect, or how I was supposed to know
how Post Office would operate the contract in practice. I understand that in Post Office’s
Defence (at paragraph 21(d)) it is said that some contractual documents were available on
request and/or online, and that not all of the types of document were relevant to my branch,
but this does not help me to understand what exactly are the documents Post Office say
make up my contract.
104. I think it is obvious that I had to rely on Post Office for all training, assistance and support.
I had no other way to obtain relevant training, and I was repeatedly told that if I had any
problems I should call the Helpline. The main way in which my expectations differed from
reality was the quality of training assistance and support I received, which I explain further
below.
Horizon and Helpline as Services
105. I understood that Horizon and the Helpline were both in Post Office’s control, were
provided by Post Office to me, and I was supposed to rely on them. I was repeatedly told
that I should rely on the Helpline and it was there to assist me. I understood that Horizon
was a system which was supposed to make the business of running a branch easier, and
expected that if a big company like Post Office provided it in all of its branches, it must be
good.
106. I understand there is a legal issue as to whether Horizon and the Helpline were “services"
provided to me, and I therefore also mention that in the restrictions policy [LD1/11-14] which
I was provided with by email on 9 August 2013 [LD1/9-10] and 18 February 2012 [LD1/213-
214], it states as follows:
“Operators benefit from being part of the Post Office® network. In addition to
payments which Subpostmasters receive from Post Office Ltd, Post Office Ltd
invests in advertising that brings customers into Post Office® branches, it ensures
that Post Office® products meet regulatory requirements and it provides customer
and business services such as helplines to support Subpostmasters/Operators.”
[pH]
20
C1/5/20
How Post Office Ran its Business
{E5/208/1-4}
107. I have been shown paragraph 11 of Post Office’s Defence in my case, where Post Office
suggests it is to be inferred that I would have obtained information about the way in which
Post Office ran its business and about the business relationship it had with its
Subpostmasters before my appointment. The information I obtained from Mr Toor was very
limited, and the extent of this is set out above. Before my appointment, I was not aware of
the manner in which Post Office ran its business and dealt with its Subpostmasters. I have
set out above what my expectations were in respect of working with Post Office, which was
based on my general impression of Post Office and from my discussions with Post Office. I
was not aware of the limitations in training and support (including the way in which Post Office
operated the Helpline) and I would say that how this was delivered or provided was entirely
at odds with what I knew and expected prior to contracting. Prior to appointment, I did not
know about the way in which Horizon operated in practice, Post Office’s approach to
shortfalls, audits and investigation, or its approach to suspension and termination.
Training, Support and the Helpline
108. I have explained above why I do not think the classroom training or initial onsite training
or support was adequate. It was much less thorough than I had expected, both based on my
discussions about this with Mr Trotter at interview, and generally from my experience at Hilton
Hotels and City Hotels, which gave me experience about what was required in order to
operate a system like Horizon.
109. My expectation that I would receive more detailed training prior to opening was also
consistent with what was later said to me by Mr Fraser (a Post Office auditor) who asked me
why I had only received 3 days training, and not the full 5 days training. I later learned from
Ms Guthrie that the standard Post Office training provided had changed to save costs and
the 5 day training was no longer available. From the way Mr Trotter spoke to me at interview,
I think he was also expecting better and more thorough training than I in fact received.
110. In terms of branch opening and in branch training, I did not expect to immediately have
a problem in my branch accounts, but an error was introduced by the Post Office’s own
auditor Ms Guthrie, as I have mentioned above. As I later recorded in my email to Mr Trotter
on 12 February 2015 [LD1/529-532], it appears that the apparent shortfall first appeared at
the time of the first roll over to the next trading period, Ms Guthrie tried and failed to resolve
it, then left me with the problem in my accounts. After a period this appeared to go away,
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and I was told by the Helpline it had been resolved, only to then be billed the amount months
later, in February 2015.
111. At the time in November 2014, Ms Guthrie did not know what had caused this problem.
At one point she suggested that I might have taken the money, which I was very shocked by
and was in any event ridiculous because she had been with me all day. She then said it was
likely caused by the power cut we had experienced. Ms Guthrie wasn’t able to find out that
it was her mistake that had caused the problem. She said things like it was “the system”
which was the problem.
112. I was very unhappy and concerned about these events, and I raised with Mr Trotter why
Ms Guthrie had been allowed to leave with my branch accounts still showing a shortfall. I
didn’t think she should be allowed to be an auditor when she had such limited knowledge of
how to deal with shortfalls, and I told him this. Mr Trotter said to me that Post Office was
looking whether the problem was related to the power outage and the matter would be
escalated to Fujitsu because it was their system. Ultimately this problem was resolved by
Post Office issuing transaction corrections, which is referred to in my email to Andrew Winn
{E5/209} on 4 March 2014 [LD1/533-534], I note now that Post Office chose not to send me the more
complete information about the errors which had been identified, in their internal emails
{E5/208/1-4} ([p529-532], following my 12 February email above).
113. Prior to contracting I expected there to be some sort of ongoing training or at least a
helpful response when I specifically asked for further training, but this was not the case. The
only training I received after opening was online compliance training in the form of multiple
choice questions. Post Office required me to retain the print out confirmations of this training
{E5/203.1/1 -9} for me ancj my assjstants, which I did [LD1/535-543].
{E5/206/1} 114. On 1 December 2014, my area manager, Jamie Haugh sent me an email [LD1/544]
{E5/206/1-2} attaching some information titled “How to complete Stock & Office Balance” [LD1/545-546],
He sent me this because when he visited my branch shortly before the beginning of
December 2014, I asked him if he knew why my balancing had never been correct to the
penny. He told me that so far as he understood, there was no reason why it should not be
correct. He said that he would look into this for me. He mentioned that he knew of another
Subpostmistress who had some helpful tips. He said he would look into this and follow up
with me. I am not sure whether the document he sent to me was from another
Subpostmistress but I did not find the document particularly helpful and I continued to have
difficulties balancing
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{E5/201/1}
115. I felt very disappointed with the training I had received overall and I raised this on a
number of occasions with Mr Haugh. My disappointment is recorded in Mr Haugh’s email to
me sent on 6 March 2015 [LD1/547], As I recall I did follow up with the contact provided
(Ms Hassam), but I did not hear anything further. I was not offered any further training at any
time.
116. As to the Helpline, my expectations prior to being appointed were that the Helpline would
be extremely helpful and able to resolve any problem I encountered, because I had
repeatedly been told to rely on the Helpline and given the impression that it was an excellent
source of support. I was shocked to find out that in practice the support from the Helpline
was much more limited. From what I now understand about the Helpline, I think the limitations
of it are general limitations, and not specific to my case, so when I was being told to rely on
the Helpline in fact it was never going to be as good as I was being led to believe.
117. I frequently asked for support from the Helpline, I would estimate 2-3 times per month,
and often this was in relation to problems with apparent shortfalls or balancing. Contrary to
what I had expected, the advice I received was generally not very helpful at all. The Helpline
advisors didn’t help me with information about specific transactions or information, and just
gave very general advice. Most of the time, the Helpline would just tell me to do a re-count
and if there was still a shortfall, they just told me that I would have to make it good. Throughout
the time I was calling the helpline I generally was given the impression that I was the only
person having these kind of problems with balancing. They would seem surprised when I
described the problems and they never gave any indication that similar issues were occurring
in other branches.
118. I was one time told how to “get around” Horizon by altering stock figures to balance,
which was obviously not helping me to find the specific problem, and was just covering it up.
They told me they ‘shouldn’t be doing this’ but that this was the only way around the problem
I had. This felt wrong and it was concerning to me that there were little ’work arounds’ to
dealing with the Horizon system, this really suggested that there was some kind of fault in
the system.
119. At times the advice I was given by the Helpline was not in line with the advice that I was
given by Post Office representatives. For example, Ms Guthrie had told me that in order to
deal with discrepancies I should use the ‘variance’ button, but the Helpline told me not to do
this.
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120. I believe that Post Office had access to many more sources of information about
transactions than I did, but the Helpline advisors did not share this with me, and they would
say that they “could not see the system’’.
121. Post Office has disclosed helpline records relating to my branch which cover the period
{E5/198/1 -3} 19 November 2014 to 9 March 2017 [LD1/548-560], I don’t know if this log in fact records
all of the times I contacted the Helpline and the notes are very brief. The log doesn’t show
the calls which Margaret Guthrie made to the Helpline during branch set up which I have
referred to above. I note that the log does show that Post Office treated as a “resolution”
advice to do a recount or run a report, whether or not this actually resolved the problem for
me. See for example the entry on 30 November 2014, which records “#389 LOSS
CURRENTLY ON HORIZON. LOOKING AT A CASH VAIRANCE". I think looking at the date
of this entry, it is possible I made this call because of the problem introduced by Ms Guthrie
during branch opening, but I cannot be sure. The “resolution” which is recorded was simply
“ADVISED TO TRY A BALANCE REPORT’’. There is no record whether this in fact resolved
the problem for me.
122. As part of my previous employment with Hilton Hotels, I had always been told and worked
on the basis that unless an issue was satisfactorily resolved, we could not close the enquiry.
Prior to being appointed, I expected the same standard of service from the Helpline, but from
my experience this was clearly not Post Office’s approach to resolving problems raised by
Subpostmasters.
Assistants
123. I understand that Post Office says it was my role to train assistants, but this was not
explained to me at the time, and was not realistic in practice, when the training I had received
was so limited.
124. Post Office didn’t offer me any support or guidance about training my assistants, other
than requiring them to undertake the compliance tests I have referred to above.
{E5/203/3}
125. Post Office had encouraged me to rely on my experienced assistant Ms Sohi, who had
previously been employed by Mr Toor, when taking on the branch (this is referred to in Ms
Guthrie’s performance assessment of me, referred to above, at [p528]).
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126. Later, Post Office also encouraged me to dismiss Ms Sohi, after the 15 July 2015 audit
which I refer to below. Post Office told me that there had been deliberate falsification and
{E5/223/1-2} inflation of accounts the night before the audit using Ms Soho’s user id, [LD1/561-562] and
gave me further guidance about conducting a disciplinary meeting with her (as referred to in
{E5/224/1-2} my notes for the meeting [LD1/563-564]). I understood that if I didn’t dismiss Ms Sohi Post
Office would not let me reopen the branch.
127. More generally, I understood that Post Office controlled the process of employing
assistants, by requiring assistants to be registered with them, and being able to refuse any
assistants I wanted to employ if they did not agree.
Horizon
128. I did not expect to be encountering apparent shortfalls and not be able to identify and
resolve the problem, either on my own or with Post Office’s help. In fact I had apparent
shortfalls on a regular basis. I was generally unable to find the cause of the problem using
Horizon and I had to rely on Post Office to help me. In fact Post Office gave me very little
help, and I didn’t have access to the same information I believe Post Office had access to.
129. I have described above the initial problem caused by Ms Guthrie during branch set up
and the fact that Ms Guthrie couldn’t find the problem using Horizon. I was completely reliant
on Post Office to sort this issue out, which thankfully they finally did. I expected there to be
an easier way to use Horizon to identify the cause of the problem and how to resolve it
quickly.
130. I think this experience during branch set up is highly relevant to how easy it was for an
error to be entered into Horizon. I also think it shows how difficult it was for Subpostmasters
in practice to find out the cause of an apparent shortfall showing on Horizon, when Ms
Guthrie, an experienced auditor, was unable to do this. The emails above also show that
Post Office did not provide complete information to me even when it was available to them.
131. I encountered further problems with Horizon during my period as Subpostmaster,
including in June 2015, when Post Office issued a transaction correction for £2,660, which
related to a delivery of coins. I did not agree with the transaction correction or the basis for
it, but I was told by Post Office that I had to accept it in order to roll into the next balance
period. This transaction correction is recorded in the transaction correction data which Post
{E5/229} Office has disclosed ([LD1/565-566]).
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132. I was initially told that without the rem in slip, which I did not have because it hadn’t
printed, that Post Office couldn’t even log a call with Fujitsu to investigate. I then spoke to
my area manager Mr Haugh about this who tried to assist, and there are various Post Office
internal emails I have now seen which show the problem I had, and the lack of understanding
on behalf of even Post Office employees about the issue (for example, email chain from Mr
{E5/211/1-2} Haugh beginning 4 June 2015 [LD1/567-568]). While Mr Haugh was trying to be helpful, he
was also focused on sales and upselling, as shown by his email to me on 5 June 2015
{E5/212/1} ([LD1/569]). I was very stressed throughout this period, and did everything I could to try to
resolve it, including providing to Post Office all the documents I thought might assist and as
full explanations as possible.
133. I have now seen an email sent by Mr Haugh to Ms Southern on 19 June 2015 [LD1/570-
{E5/213/1-5} 574] (which I was not copied into), which shows the lack of understanding even by Mr Haugh
about what reports were available on Horizon (7 have spoken to a Branch Manager in a
former branch of mine and she says you can check on Horizon through the Rem in report
and Transaction Log as to whether it has been scanned in”). He also seems to be
uncomfortable with how I was being treated during this time (7 don’t know the process but it
seems like we are treating people as being guilty of something all because they have lost a
slip. Surely there are other methods of checking?”). Mr Haugh also referred to how little
training I had received and the effect it was having on me (“This is a new operator with limited
training and this amount of money is probably 4 months income. Louise is really stressed
about the situation.”).
134. I have also now seen an email from Mr Haugh to Mr Trotter on 19 June 2015 [LD1/575-
{E5/214/1-5} 579] (which I was not copied into), telling him about the issue, and again recording his
concern (“Not sure where she goes next. It seems the business are telling her she never
scanned it in so you owe us the £2k. ”)
Audits and Investigation
135. My branch was first audited on 15 June 2015. This was during the period when I was
trying to get to the bottom of the problem with the transaction correction and cash, which I
have referred to above. Prior to contracting I didn’t expect Post Office to plan an audit during
a period where there was this type of uncertainty and there were outstanding enquiries being
made.
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136. I had not been in the branch for the period before the audit, as I had been in Pakistan
and Ms Sohi had been managing the branch in my absence.
{E5/215/1 -3}
{E5/216/1 -2}
{E5/217/1 -2}
137. The audit was conducted by Ms Guthrie, and she concluded that there was an alleged
shortfall of £10,423.96, as recorded in her audit report [LD1/580-586], although this was not
sent to me at the time. Ms Guthrie only left me with a few handwritten notes on the day.
138. I was suspended following this audit, which meant that I was then unable to carry out my
own investigation. I raised this and other issues with Mr Trotter in my email to him on 22 July
{E5/219/1} 2015 [LD1/587], I later met with him on 27 July, and as can be seen from my notes [LD1/588-
{E5/220/1-2} 589], I was raising with Mr Trotter possible enquiries Post Office could make, and explaining
the difficulties I had had with the transaction correction as referred to above.
139. Post Office did later find that a large amount of the apparent shortfalls related to cheques
which had been sent. Post Office’s internal emails between 30 July and 4 August refer to
{E5/221/1-5} this [LD1/590-594], and I note that Mr Trotter considered that the cheques “may have been
sent out of course or gone missing in the post” (email on 30 July 2015). However, I was
considered accountable and liable to pay for these apparent shortfalls until the cheques were
found.
140. I was also held liable for the losses which had apparently been caused by Ms Sohi (on
{E5/223/1-2} the basis of Mr Trotter’s email to me ([LD1/561-562] above).
141. As I explain further below, Post Office did not allow me to reopen the branch until I agreed
to repay the amount of the outstanding apparent shortfall from the audit and accepted new
contractual conditions. Post Office then deducted the amount of the shortfall in instalments
from my fees.
142. I was audited again on 17 May 2016, the auditor on this occasion was Mr Fraser, and an
apparent shortage of £2,252 was found. On this occasion I was not suspended, but was
again required to make good the apparent shortfall, and received a “Notice to remedy
[E5/231/1-2} breaches in 14 days” letter dated 6 June 2016 [LD1/595-596], Post Office took the approach
that because I was not able to explain the apparent shortfall I had to repay it and again made
arrangements for deductions to be made from my wages. So far as I am aware Post Office
did not itself carry out any investigation in relation to the cause of the apparent shortfall.
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143. I was audited for a third time on 3 February 2017. An apparent shortfall of £6,870.85
{E5/234/1-11} was recorded in Post Office’s report [LD1/597-607] (although this was not provided to me).
144. During this audit, one of the auditors named Caroline told me not to worry, that it would
all get sorted out, and when I said the situation was ridiculous told me many people had said
that.
145. Again, Post Office’s approach was that unless I could explain the amount of the apparent
shortfall then I was liable for it. I could not, although I did explain the problems I had had,
and asked for more support. I was suspended and later dismissed. I was made liable for
the amount of the apparent shortfall.
146. Prior to contracting, I expected to have a great deal more support from Post Office when
dealing with a situation where I was being held liable for very large sums of money - many
thousands of pounds. I expected Post Office to assist me to try to find out the cause of the
losses, whether I was responsible for them, and whether these were real losses to Post Office
at all.
Suspension and Termination
147. As explained above, I was suspended following the first and third audits. I was not paid
any fees during my suspension and did not have access to any information via Horizon. Post
Office took away some of my records following the third audit and when I asked did not return
them to me.
148. I attended a meeting with David Southall on 3 March 2017. Again Post Office’s approach
was that I had to provide an explanation, rather than Post Office trying to help me with what
had gone wrong.
{E5/235/1-4}149. My appointment was then terminated by letter dated 27 March 2017 [LD1/608-611],
150. Prior to my appointment I had not expected Post Office to terminate my appointment,
either on notice or summarily (as in fact occurred). I thought this was a long term
arrangement, that this would provide my livelihood for good. Post Office was advertising
that the Network Transformation scheme was to build futures, and they had required
investment and commitment from me at the outset. I remember Ms Hammerton had encouraged me when I was talking about buying a house that I would be investing in my future, and together with Post Office, I would be able to build a good future for my family.
151. I expected that if there were problems, Post Office would support me to resolve them.
Comparative Knowledge about Transactions
152. I understand that one of the issues before the Court at the Common Issues trial relates
to relative knowledge about transactions as between Subpostmasters and Post Office, and
I have been shown paragraphs 76(4) to (6) of Post Office’s Generic Defence where Post
Office states the alleged limits of its knowledge in relation to transactions undertaken in
branches.
153. I understood that Post Office had much greater access to information than me, and
indeed this can be seen from some of Post Office’s internal emails which have now been
disclosed but weren’t available to me at the time.
154. The only reference guides that were available to me for Horizon were the guides that
were built in to the Horizon system itself, when you keyed F9 or F10 (I cannot recall the exact
key). These guides could not be accessed when in the middle of a transaction, so were not
helpful as a point of reference when in the middle of a transaction. They were also not very
user friendly, some sections were blank, there was no search function, and the only print
option was a page at a time.
155. Post Office could obtain information from Fujitsu, who I was not able to contact directly,
so I was entirely reliant on Post Office if and when they chose to do this, and whether they
shared this information with me.
156. I never received any training to assist me to identify the cause of apparent shortfalls,
even after Post Office held me liable for apparent shortfalls which I could not explain.
157. I believe that Post Office were much better able than me to investigate the cause of
apparent shortfalls if they wanted to do so. For example, it was Post Office who provided me
with the information about Ms Sohi, although neither Post Office nor me had been present in
branch at the relevant time.

Variations to Contract

158. As I have referred to above, following first audit in July 2015, Post Office offered to
“reinstate” me if I agreed to certain “conditions” set out in their letter of 24 August 2015,
including repayment of the alleged shortfall amount ([LD1/612-613]). I understand now that
this letter varied my existing contract terms. I did not take any legal advice in relation to this
letter and did not think I had any choice except to agree if I wanted to reopen the branch
which I did, having invested so much into it.
159. Post Office required me to sign and return their letter of 6 June 2016 following the second
audit, which I understand also affected my contract.
160. I requested a variation to my contact terms in August or September 2015, when I
requested a change to opening hours following the events of July 2015 and Ms Sohi being
dismissed [LD1/615], Mr Trotter told me on 28 August 2015 that I couldn’t make this request
until the anniversary date of my contract “which according to my records is the 19th November
20'/5”[LD1/616-617], then on 7 September said that my request had been noted and he was
awaiting authorisation from the regional manager [LD1/618]. I did not then receive a decision
until 24 March 2016 [LD1/619-622], Mr Trotter sent me a letter confirming new hours with
effect from 4 April 2016. Mr Trotter expressly stated in that letter that the change amounted
to “a variation to your Agreement'. I do not know why it took Post Office so long to agree to
this change, but I think it is possible that Mr Trotter just forgot about it. It seemed to me that
he was overworked and had too much to deal with, he did not seem to be particularly
organised.

161. Around the same time I made a request to Post Office for my branch to become a Post
Office Plus branch to enable customers to deal with their banking [LD1/614]. My branch
was located next to a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, which closed in August 2015 and I had
enquiries from various customers, who hoped to bank at their local Post Office, my branch. I
understood that we could only offer banking services if Post Office designated the branch a
“Plus” branch. This request was ultimately refused by Post Office, but I cannot recall the date
this decision was made.

I believe the contents of this statement to be true.
Signed
Date 10 August 2018