Trust in Post Office plummets following outrage over Horizon scandal

Trust in Post Office plummets following outrage over Horizon scandal

The Post Office has plummeted from its position as Britain’s sixth-most-trusted financial, banking and insurance brand to 135th in the space of just 12 months amid public outcry over the Horizon IT scandal, new polling suggests.

The company is now at risk of losing a third of its “heartland” older customer base, the study found, with the number of over-50s considering using Post Office services falling from 60 to 40 per cent in less than a year.

Trust in the Post Office as a whole fell to 69 per cent in April, down from 83 per cent the previous year, according to polling by Savanta seen exclusively by The Independent.

The rolling survey interviews more than a million consumers every year, covering over 2,500 UK brands.

“The Post Office has always been one of the most trusted brands in Britain, but this shows just how affected the brand has been by the Horizon IT scandal bursting into the public consciousness,” said spokesperson John Laughton.

“Our findings suggest that their biggest challenge is with their heartland of over-50s. However, the legacy of the Post Office brand does give them the opportunity to rebuild, if they can reassure those core audiences and show willingness to improve, but there’s plenty of reputational work to do.”

The pollsters said they would be keeping a close watch on the company’s trust ratings in the coming weeks, with former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells set to give evidence at the ongoing inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal next week.

More than 700 subpostmasters were wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as a result of Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system, which made it appear as though money was missing from their branches.

The Post Office scandal saw hundreds of people wrongly prosecuted as a result of the faulty Horizon IT system (PA)

Hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting full compensation, despite the government announcing that those whose convictions have been quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts. More than 250 people are thought to have died while waiting for compensation.

Public outrage over the scandal reached new levels in January with the broadcast of ITV’s Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which dramatised the years-long fight undertaken by subpostmasters, led by campaigner and former subpostmaster Alan Bates, in their quest for justice.

Savanta’s research suggests that trust in the Post Office declined most severely in January, with its rating falling 10 percentage points in the space of a month.

The following month, the Cabinet Office said Ms Vennells had been stripped of her CBE – awarded to her in December 2018 – for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”, weeks after she stated an intention to hand back the honour.

The Horizon inquiry heard on Friday that Ms Vennells had located 50 additional documents, which she will hand to the inquiry before giving evidence next week.