Post offices could be transformed into mini Garda bureaux under proposals to save the country’s struggling network.
Workers in the country’s 1,150 post offices could carry out basic police administration in a bid to raise more revenue and prevent future closures.
This was one consideration in a report from a cross-party Oireachtas committee, which made a string of recommendations to make post offices more sustainable.
The report suggested following a model due to be piloted in Britain, in which its post office is in talks with 10 police forces about providing limited services.
The mayor of London’s office is looking at a pilot scheme this summer which will see police points of contacts in post offices and other public buildings acting as a lost property desk or taking petty crime reports.
The committee report urged the Government to consider that idea, but to also use post offices for processing motor tax renewals, hospital charges, water charges, property tax, business rates, rents, and other public payment services.
About 400 post offices are threatened with immediate closure if An Post fails to secure a contract to process social welfare payments, which is out to tender.
The report recommends that a successful bidder for any contracts currently held by An Post honour the “social responsibility” held by the local post office, which serves as a “social dividend” and is “important for social inclusion”.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union welcomed the recommendations but said it was concerned the report would just gather dust.
“The vulnerability of the network is once again highlighted in the report and this further emphasises the urgent need for the Government to look positively at routing more business through the outstanding network of post offices,” said general secretary Brian McGann.
Committee chairman Tom Hayes TD said post offices were vital, especially in rural areas. “The post office network, with its unrivalled reach across the nation, has many competitive advantages which could lead to an expansion in the products and services it provides,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Michael Colreavy said: “Most of the proposals in this report require not additional funding, but a different way of thinking.”
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