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Post Office boss Nick Read obsessed with pay says ex-HR chief

Post Office boss Nick Read was "obsessed with his pay" and made threats to resign over the issue, the firm's former HR director has claimed.

When Jane Davies didn't manage to get him a pay increase above 5%, Mr Read started a "deliberate campaign to defame and ostracise" her, she said.

But the Post Office said a report last week had "fully exonerated" Mr Read.

It added that claims made by Ms Davies and ex-chair Henry Staunton had been "discredited".

The revelations are the latest in an ongoing disagreement between Ms Davies and Mr Staunton on one hand, and the Post Office and the government on the other.

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They are separate from the Post Office Horizon scandal, but the dispute was made public in hearings about compensation for sub-postmasters.

Threats to resign?

Last week, Mr Read was cleared of all misconduct allegations following an investigation carried out by an external barrister, the results of which have not been published.

Mr Staunton revealed the existence of the investigation during a Business and Trade committee hearing on 27 February.

He claimed that Nick Read had considered leaving his role on several occasions and was unhappy with his pay.

At the time the Post Office said that Mr Read had never tendered his resignation.

But in a letter to the committee published on Tuesday, Ms Davies said Mr Read had made repeated threats to resign over his pay.

Mr Read had a request for a pay increase in November 2022 turned down by then business secretary Grant Shapps, after two similar requests "backed up in each case by threats to resign" were turned down in the preceding year.

"I noted a board member saying to me: 'Nick had cried wolf at least 3 times'," Ms Davies wrote.

She said there were more than 30 email or Microsoft Teams exchanges in December and January 2023 concerning Mr Read's pay, one of which asked "can the business afford to be rudderless"?

In January 2023 Mr Read was "prepared to submit a formal grievance and or make a claim for constructive dismissal" after leaving, Ms Davies said.

Nick Read became chief executive of the Post Office in 2019 as the organisation dealt with the fall-out of the Horizon scandal and declining revenues.

"Obsessed"

His salary for 2022-23 stood at £573,000, including bonuses.

The year before, he earned £816,000, of which £415,000 was salary and the rest bonus. This reflects the fact he agreed to repay a £54,500 portion of his bonus that was linked to the Post Office's participation in the official inquiry.

In the year 2020-21, he did not get a bonus, and was paid £415,000.

Even without being doubled, this salary looks high compared with the annual median UK wage of £34,963, while the average takings for sub-postmasters is lower.

However, the average award for FTSE 100 bosses stands at £3.81m per year.

Ms Davies said Mr Read was "obsessed with his pay, to such an extent that it was a huge distraction from me establishing myself in my new position and performing the duties that were set out in my job description".

She said he was offered a 5% pay rise but found it "insulting".

"As a result, he regarded me a failure for not getting the remuneration increase," she said. "What followed was a deliberate campaign to defame and ostracise me," she said.

She added that a bullying complaint had been made about Mr Read, not Mr Staunton.

Ms Davies also accused the Post Office of "dragging their heels" and "misinterpreting" her complaint which became the basis of the misconduct investigation into Mr Read.

She said the Post Office had tried to present her complaint as being about other people, including Henry Staunton, when it was actually "concerned with Nick Read, and Nick Read alone".

"The fact the POL [Post Office] has ignored my attempts to set the record straight and persisted with its own distorted interpretation (and has indeed privately warned me using the word "misrepresentation" in this context) does not give me confidence in the integrity of this investigation", Ms Davies said.

She added that "it feels to me that POL have deliberately widened the scope of their investigation to suit another agenda".

Ms Davies added she was not issued with the terms of reference for the investigation despite giving it her full cooperation and travelling hundreds of miles to meet with the investigator.

A letter to the committee from Mr Staunton was also published on Tuesday in which he said the complaint by Ms Davies had been "directed at Nick Read and Nick Read alone", rather than Mr Staunton.

However, the Post Office said a "highly reputable" barrister had "produced an extensive, robust, and impartial report that fully exonerated Nick Read of all the misconduct allegations levelled against him, and in so doing discredited many of the claims raised in these letters".

Following the conclusion of her investigation last week, barrister Marianne Tutin of Devereux Chambers said she was able to approach her inquiry independently in a "fair, thorough and proportionate" manner.

"I was...not placed under any pressure as to what to investigate, or not to investigate, or what findings of fact or recommendations should, or should not, be made," she said.

Jane Davies has declined to comment.