Post office chiefs seek plan from minister

Postmasters have called on Communications Minister Alex White to commit to a plan for the future of post offices, and have demanded that they continue to handle social welfare payments.

Postmasters yesterday presented 500,000 signatures collected from Post Offices across the country in support of retaining the existing post office network to the minister’s office yesterday.

The petition comes in advance of a publication from a Post Office Network Business Development Group, which has been established to examine the potential for post offices to deliver commercial and government business and identify new opportunities for the post office network.

The group’s membership is drawn from the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU), An Post, the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. It is chaired by Bobby Kerr, broadcaster and chairman of Insomnia coffee.

The group’s initial report was published last June. It found that two-thirds of all post office transactions are conducted in 300 outlets, while another 48% of post offices account for just 12% of total business.

The group’s final report is expected to look at the possibility of post offices delivering services like HSE payments, the electoral register, motor tax, local authority payments and CAO and examination fees.

Speaking yesterday, IPU general secretary Ned O’Hara said there is an onus on the Government to act on post offices before the end of its term in office.

“The Bobby Kerr group’s report is due for release shortly and provides an opportunity for the Government to meet the concerns of the public. If this opportunity is not grasped, Government TDs will have to answer these voters’ disappointment at the doorstep. Postmasters and the public are up for the change, progression and development required to secure the future of the post office network, is the Government?

“We need to see a meaningful national plan, together with commitment to implementation, which will support maintaining social protection payments through the post office network, new public services delivered through post offices, basic banking in the Post Office and the roll out of new commercial and financial products,” he said.

IPU president Paddy McCann said the Government policy to hand core post office business over to the commercial banks is “a major frustration” among postmasters: “Social protection payments account for 30% of post offices business and its spin-off value is as high as 50%.

“Transferring this business to the private banks will shut down the network and remove a core piece of economic and social infrastructure from our communities. Bobby Kerr’s report must address this core issue when its recommendations are launched in the coming weeks.”

The Communications Workers’ Union has called for post offices to be supported as a “one-stop-shop for suitable government services”.


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