Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has revealed more details on the agreement he signed with scandal-hit software firm Fujitsu.
Japanese company Fujitsu has been at the centre of the Post Office scandal, with its faulty Horizon accounting software being used to convict more than 900 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses of theft and false accounting, among other charges, for years.
In light of the scandal, which has been pushed into the public spotlight once again following the broadcast of ITV drama ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ earlier this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced new legislation to overturn wrongful convictions.
But there has also been scrutiny in Greater Manchester, after the Mayor and Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig signed an ‘exploratory agreement’ with Fujitsu on a trade mission last month. A spokesperson for Mr Burnham and Cllr Craig, who is the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s portfolio lead for economy, has defended the deal.
They said: “No contract has been signed between Greater Manchester and Fujitsu, no work has been undertaken, and no public money has been spent with or earmarked for Fujitsu.”
Now, Andy Burnham has been probed further on the deal during his regular phone-in radio slot on BBC Radio Manchester. Present Mike Sweeney asked the Mayor if he was ‘reviewing’ the agreement in light of Fujitsu’s admissions of failures.
“They are very serious admissions. I want it to be clear that I fully support postmasters and mistresses in their campaigns to get justice from the Post Office, and from Fujitsu, and from the government,” the Mayor replied.
“We have to wait to find out what the public inquiry finds about who is to blame and to what extent they are to blame. All of that is non-negotiable and I am not going to back away from that.
“We also have a company that has been here for a long time; they have a big base in Greater Manchester employing 500 people. We can’t, at the same time, follow the media and disregard those jobs. We have got to work with the company in terms of its plans in Greater Manchester, hence the agreement.
“There’s no contract, there’s nothing binding, and it's for that reason: there’s an ongoing public inquiry. No decision has been made. It’s a complicated situation, but we have reserved our position because it’s only a very outline agreement.”
Earlier this week, a Fujitsu spokesperson said: “The Fujitsu Group regards this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the sub-postmasters and their families. The UK statutory public inquiry, to which our UK subsidiary is providing full cooperation, is examining complex events that have unfolded over many years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this cooperation.
“Based on the findings of the inquiry, we will also be working with the UK government on the appropriate actions, including a contribution to compensation. The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”