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Andy Burnham: Post Office inquiry will decide Fujitsu investment zone fate

Andy Burnham Fujitsu
Image credit: GMCA

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he will “wait and see” the outcome of the Post Office public inquiry before deciding whether to continue an agreement with Fujitsu.

Burnham and Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig signed a partnership agreement with Fujitsu during a trade mission to Tokyo last month to support the region’s advanced manufacturing investment zone.

The exploratory partnership is at the early stages and no payments have been made between Fujitsu and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, UKTN revealed last week.

Burnham, who at the time praised the agreement as a “massive boost” for the region, has since confirmed the deal is “not binding”.

Burnham told BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday that any decision over the deal would have to take into account Fujitsu’s extensive ties to the region, which date back more than 75 years.

Burnham said local leaders could not “disregard” the 500 Fujitsu jobs in the region and described it as a “complicated situation”.

“We’ve got a local responsibility to the employer… but at the same time we’ve got a responsibility to justice and the sub-postmasters,” he said.

Horizon software made by Fujitsu erroneously showed ‘shortfalls’ in the branch accounts of hundreds of sub-postmasters. The Post Office insisted Horizon was “robust” and relentlessly prosecuted hundreds of sub-postmasters for offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.

Between 1999 and 2015, over 900 sub-postmasters were prosecuted in what was subsequently named the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

Burnham said: “They are very serious admissions. I want it to be clear that I fully support the sub-postmasters and mistresses in their campaign to get justice from the Post Office, from Fujitsu, from the government.

“We obviously then have to wait to see what the public inquiry finds.”

Burnham said the investment zone deal was signed “before some of the recent revelations had come through in relation to the public inquiry and the evidence that Fujitsu gave”.

In 2019, the High Court ruled that Fujitsu’s Horizon software was at fault for the misreported losses at Post Office branches.

A spokesperson for the region’s combined authority 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.”

Fujitsu has said it will not bid for any UK government contracts while the inquiry is ongoing.

Earlier this month Fujitsu apologised to sub-postmasters who were prosecuted due to faults with Horizon.

“Fujitsu is fully committed to supporting the inquiry in order to understand what happened and to learn from it,” a Fujitsu spokesperson previously told UKTN.

“Out of respect for the inquiry process, it would be inappropriate for Fujitsu to comment further at this time.”