The decision by former Post Office boss Paula Vennells to hand back her CBE comes after a dramatic fall from grace following her handling of the Horizon IT scandal.

She had a long-standing career at the Post Office, having started as group network director in 2007, then becoming managing director in 2010 before being promoted to the top job five years later.

She joined the group after holding a number of management positions at L’Oreal, Whitbread, Dixons and Argos, having started her career as a graduate trainee at consumer goods giant Unilever in 1981.

She studied Russian, French and economics at the University of Bradford and has a diploma in theology from Oxford University.

Alongside her corporate career, she was also ordained as an Anglican priest in 2006 and served at three churches in Bedfordshire.

Paula Vennells
Paula Vennells stepped down from her Post Office role in February 2019 (Post Office/PA)

She headed up the Post Office for nearly seven years, taking the helm in the same year that it split from Royal Mail as part of the latter’s privatisation.

She was appointed CBE in the 2019 New Years Honours List “for services to the Post Office and to charity”, just before stepping down from the Post Office in February of that year.

Her tenure as chief executive was marred from the start, coming as the Post Office suffered amid financial woes, leading to sweeping cost-cutting measures which saw thousands of branches close across the UK.

Her promotion also came as the Post Office began to investigate allegations made by a number of sub-postmasters about the IT system at the centre of the scandal.

She faced heavy criticism over her handling of the affair, finally stepping down in February 2019.

She has since also quit boardroom roles at retailers Morrisons and Dunelm as postmasters began having their convictions overturned and also stepped back from her regular church duties.

Ms Vennells likewise stepped down from her role as chairwoman of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in 2021, having taking on the job in April 2019 soon after leaving the Post Office.