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Timpson chief is surprise appointment as prisons minister


James Timpson, the CEO of Manchester-based Timpson Group, was a surprise appointment as prisons minister as new PM Keir Starmer began to shape his new government over the weekend.

Timpson Group, which includes the eponymous cobbler as well as brands like Johnsons The Cleaners, Max Spielman and The Watch lab, is renowned for its efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders and last year spent over half a million pounds on retraining and employing ex-offenders in its stores – over 10% of Timpson’s workforce are former prisoners.

The 52-year-old CEO of the Timpson Group operates an “upside down” management style at the company, where the 5,600 employees are in charge, while the Timpson family is one of the top 10 highest taxpayers in the UK.

In 2021, Timpson told workers they could claim prescription charges for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on expenses. The firm have offered to clean job interview outfits for free for customers who are unemployed, while The Alex Timpson Trust offers free holiday homes for foster families because James’s parents, John and Alex, who died in 2016, fostered 90 children over 31 years at their home in Manchester.

The company also does small jobs for free, such as adding a new belt hole for customers, asking them to make a donation instead of paying, which has raised more than £4m for charities so far.

James Timpson has previously worked with Conservative ministers on prison reform – Rishi Sunak visited a Timpson’s during the election campaign – and was chair of the Prison Reform Trust until his surprise appointment yesterday.

Prison Reform Trust chief executive Pia Sinha thanked Timpson for his “inspirational leadership, support, wisdom and generosity.”

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