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Royal Mail Holdings plc Board and its predecessors

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 69 Series
Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive
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Full title: Royal Mail Holdings plc Board and its predecessors
Date(s): 1934-1994
Level of description: Series
Extent: 113 volumes, 1662 files
Name of creator(s):

No further information available


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1934 as part of a general re-organisation of the Post Office, a Director General was appointed to replace the office of Secretary to the Post Office. At the same time a Post Office Board was created under the Chairmanship of the Postmaster General. Further re-organisation also took place in 1934 with the replacement of district surveyors by regional directors, who were given full powers of day-to-day control of local postal and telecommunications affairs in their regions.

The establishment of a functional board for the Post Office was first recommended in the Bridgeman report of 1932, and the Post Office Board was subsequently established with eleven members, including all the General Directorate and Directors. Recommendations made by the Board were put before the Postmaster General through the Secretary's Minutes to the Postmaster General. However the board had no executive power, and decisions rested ultimately with the Postmaster General. Although the Bridgeman Committee had envisaged the Board as a controlling body, in time it came to be more of a reviewing body and, due to its increasing size and the consequent difficulty of assembling members, its meetings became less frequent.

In November 1964 the board was reconstituted with the following members: Postmaster General, Assistant Postmaster General, Director General and the General Directorate, with Directors invited to attend as appropriate. The board considered and gave decisions on all major issues of policy and administration. In general, ministerial approval on important issues of policy was sought by submitting papers to the board and not by submitting minutes to the Postmaster General, except where a decision was urgently required before the board could be convened.

Before 1967 at Post Office Headquarters, 'common' engineering, finance, and personnel departments operated in parallel with Postal and Telecommunications service departments, all reporting through the general directorate to the Postmaster General. From 1967, Posts (which incorporated the existing remittance services and New Giro service) and Telecommunications were put under separate Managing Directors, each with nearly complete finance, personnel, and technological support provided by dividing up common departments.

A substantial 'central' personnel function remained and legal and some other services were left centralised. Telecommunications took on procurement and research for both businesses. The National Data Processing Service was established by Act of Parliament and began to function as an independent (central) service. Managerial links between Posts and Telecommunications began to disappear.

1969 was a year of change; with the passing of The Post Office Act in October 1969, the Post Office became a nationalised industry, established as a public Corporation.

For this reason there was two Post Office Boards in 1969; the 'old' Post Office Board (with Board papers carrying the 'POB' prefix) had its final meeting on 22 July 1969, after this, a newly constituted Board was formed and it had its first meeting on 25 July 1969 (Papers produced by the new Board were given the reference 'PO').

The Corporation was split into two businesses, Posts and Telecommunications. The office of Postmaster General was discontinued, and the Post Office was headed by a Chairman and Chief Executive/Deputy Chairman. This role was directly appointed by the Post Office Board. Members of the board also included the Managing Directors Posts and Giro, and Telecommunications, the head of the National Data Processing Service, members for industrial relations, technology and, from January 1970, a finance member.

Following the establishment of the Post Office Corporation, a second board was created, the Post Office Management Board. Both were responsible for overseeing operations, but the Post Office Board took responsibility for strategic issues, while the Post Office Management Board took over the day to day running of the Corporation. The Post Office Management Board was a non-statutory board which consisted mostly of full time board members and two officials. It was to meet monthly and receive reports from the businesses on their operations and review them in accordance with board policies, consider capital projects for which board approval was required, to examine the annual investment programme and other tasks as required.

In 1971, the Post Office Board established an Emergency Committee to handle the strike of that year.

During 1978-1979 the board operated under an experiment in industrial democracy with about half of its membership nominated by unions. This experiment was, however, considered to be unsuccessful.

In 1980, in preparation for the departure of British Telecom from the Post Office, two separate boards were established for the Telecommunications and Posts and Girobank businesses. These two new boards replaced the Post Office Management Board, and were additional to the main Post Office Board.

The main Post Office Board continued to oversee the transition period, although it met less frequently. The Chairman of the Post Office was the Chairman of both new boards (as was the Secretary) and the boards were intended to deal with matters wholly or mainly the concern of each business. They had the power to defer matters to the Post Office Board, and power to authorise action to proceed on decisions made by the board. It was stated that these boards were not intended to replace the Managing Director's Committees.

At this time, discussion was also begun regarding what procedures would be put in place to replace the 1978-1979 experiment in industrial democracy. It was suggested that a new joint body should be created for each of the businesses (Posts, and Telecommunications) titled the National Joint Policy Council, consisting of executive board members and the General Secretaries / Presidents of unions to meet and discuss a wider range of issues than the National Joint Council General Purposes Committee had done so previously. The idea was to air important policy, planning and performance issues on the National Joint Policy Councils before board decisions were taken to increase awareness of union views. In 1981 the National Joint Council General Purposes Committee was renamed the National Joint Council Posts and Giro Committee.

In 1980 the Chairman's Executive Committee was established by the Post Office Board. This Committee considered matters affecting the running of the Posts and Giro businesses relating to performance and progress against targets and personnel. This committee was renamed the Post Office Executive Committee (POEC) in September 1992.

In 1981 a Girobank and Counters Committee was established which comprised the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, board member for Finance, Personnel and Industrial relations member, Miss E Cole, Sir Clifford Cornford, Mr P E Moody, Senior Director National Girobank, the Director of Marketing and Customer Services National Girobank. In 1985 a Giro Board was created in anticipation of the establishment of Girobank as a public limited company (plc).

Also in 1981, the telecommunications business of the Post Office became a separate public corporation, trading as British Telecom. When the responsibility for telecommunications was transferred from the Post Office Corporation to British Telecom, copies of board papers relevant to the new corporation were passed to British Telecom. Following the 1981 split the Post Office was then re-organised into two distinct businesses: Posts and Parcels.

In 1981, the Post Office established an Audit Committee consisting of three part time members, the board member for finance and external auditors and internal auditors invited to attend as appropriate. It was to meet four times a year, with two meetings to consider the accounts, one to consider the external auditors letters to management, and one to meet internal auditors. The terms of reference for the committee stated that it was 'to review, as necessary, the financial policies and procedures of the Corporation and their implementation, including particularly the adequacy of the Corporation's internal control systems, and to report thereon to the Board through the Chairman of the Corporation.'

The Post Office was restructured during 1986 to create three businesses: Subscription Services Limited, Royal Mail, and Parcelforce, and the make up of the board members reflected this. In 1987 the network of Post Offices was established as Post Office Counters Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Post Office, and the Counters Management Committee was established in 1986 to replace previous monthly AD meetings. The principle of this committee was that it would deal with matters of a collective concern and of a longer term nature, for example, monthly monitoring reports and progress against the business plan. It was an effort to make more effective use of management time, and provide for more effective management of the counters business. It was renamed the Counters Executive Committee in July 1993, and reported to the Post Office Counters Board, and the main Post Office Board.

In 1988, business boards were established for the Letters, Parcels and Counters Businesses. A Major Projects Expenditure Committee (MaPEC) was also established during this year to deal with the financing of major one-off projects.

In 1990, Post Office Parcels changed its name to Parcelforce Worldwide and was launched as an independent division. National Girobank was also privatised in this year and sold to Alliance and Leicester Building Society.

The Postal Services Act 2000 created a company with more commercial freedoms and a more strategic relationship with government, and on 26 March 2001, it became a plc wholly owned by the UK government (its sole shareholder). A new regulatory framework was set up with an independent regulator (Postcomm) and a reformed consumer body (Postwatch). On 4 November 2002, a name change from Consignia to Royal Mail Group plc occurred.

The Royal Mail Group website states that the 'Royal Mail Holdings plc Board sets the strategic vision of the company. It is responsible for driving the four goals of the renewal plan: being a great place to work; improving customer service; returning to profitability; and delivering positive cash flow.' The Management Board 'comprises all the Executive Directors of Royal Mail Holdings plc and certain other Senior Executives of the Group. The Management Board develops and monitors deployment of the Group's strategy, annual operating plans and budgets for Board approval. It reviews operational activities, and sets policies where these are not reserved to the Board.'

There are three formal committees of the board including the following; Nomination Committee, Remuneration Committee, Audit and Risk Committee. Terms of reference for these committees can be found on the Royal Mail Group website. ( - last accessed November 2006).


Scope and content/abstract:

This POST class comprises papers and copy minutes of the Post Office Board (1934-[1992]), the Post Office Management Board (1970-1979), and the Posts and Girobank Board (1980-1981). The signed minutes of the main Post Office Board are included, 1969-1972.

This POST class also includes papers of subsidiary boards and committees established by the board, or whose papers and minutes were received by the Board. These include the Girobank Board, Parcels Business Board, Post Office Finance Limited Board, the Post Office Board Emergency Committee, the National Joint Policy Council, the Managing Director's Committee: Posts, the Chairman's Executive Committee, the Post Office Executive Committee, the Girobank and Counters Committee, the Audit Committee, the Counters Executive Committee, the Major Projects Expenditure Committee, the Royal Mail Executive Committee, the Letters Management Committee, the Corporate Identitity and design Committee, the Counter Automation Management Committee and ad hoc committees established by the board.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

These papers have been arranged in chronological order, in the order in which they were found.

During the period under consideration, the structure of the Post Office has undergone many changes, being reconstituted, split or seen sections amalgamated which may have caused a break in records series. Therefore although Post Office Board papers run from 1934 - 1992, they have been separated into separate series corresponding to the organisational changes which occurred within the Post Office.

Conditions governing access:

Public Record

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Please contact the Archive for further information

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Information about Royal Mail Group Holdings plc Board structure can be found on their website, Further information about the structure of the board can be found in Annual Reports and Accounts of the Post Office. See also chapters 8, 9, and 10 in, Royal Mail: The Post Office since 1840, by M J Daunton (London 1985), for further information on the history of the Post Office's administration. Information relating to the creation and functioning of the boards and committees has been taken from minutes and papers of the Post Office Board.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry checked by Barbara Ball

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Entry checked June 2011 by Barbara Ball.

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