Written evidence submitted by Nilesh Joshi (POH0024)
I took over my Post Office from September 1990. From the moment I joined the Post Office, I became a member of the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP).
I felt that as a business, I had a full say in every aspect of my retail and if I was going to operate a Post Office then I needed to be a part of the organisation that represented the views of Subpostmasters. I believe the NFSP have done that well in the past and continues to do so today, a view that I still hold strongly as a current Non Executive Director of the NFSP.
I have held many roles within the organisation and have taken increased responsibilities over the years, to ensure that the business was fair in dealing with postmasters and they were given the correct support to help them navigate through contractual interviews. I learnt to represent colleagues with the knowledge I gained from running my own Post Office, skills I learnt from my peers, and also training received on attending interviews which was set up by the then Assistant General Secretary, Kate Davis.
I have regularly attended interviews with the Postmasters and have supported them through different types of interviews, be it investigation, conformance or process failure.
Most interventions are related to conformance and local processes which are normally quickly resolved. Some issues take slightly longer to unpick and resolve but we would always try to make sure that a temporary postmaster is appointed to run the branch until a solution is found so that the community doesn’t lose their Post Office service.
In order to ensure we achieve the best outcome for the postmaster, we’d look at the charge, get postmaster to share what they believed may have happened at the branch and get a disclosure from the Post Office, if required. In confidence, some have owned up to taking the cash to pay their rent, sudden cash demands or theft. However, if I have felt that the situation is outside of my remit, I would always advise the Postmaster to gain a legal representative.
Although I cannot discuss individual cases, despite the number of cases that I’ve worked on, not one has faced a custodial sentence.
Post Offices tend to be family affairs with husband and wife team working together with children helping and learning business skills, so we fully understand the impact of suspensions and the termination of a contract on the whole family. In many circumstances, where appropriate, we have managed to transfer the business to a family member so that the family doesn’t lose their investment or their means to work.
I believe the NFSP has been very successful in defending the rights of the postmasters and continues to challenge the Post Office on a regular basis to ensure decisions they make are not only right for the business, but also for the Postmasters.
Non Executive Director