Council urged to allow tenants pay through post office

The offices of Longford County Council. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Longford County Council could be forced to forego up to €100,000 if the collection of local authority rent payments is extended to post offices.

Longford County Council could be forced to forego up to €100,000 if the collection of local authority rent payments is extended to post offices.

The six figure sum was first revealed at a Corporate Policy Group meeting last week before being relayed to councillors at its monthly meeting last Wednesday.

Director of Services Frank Sheridan said they were sums which had been calculated by the Council’s Head of Finance Barry Lynch.

He said while the figure seemed excessive and despite the council being supportive of the wider post office network, the local authority must not endanger its financial position.

“There is a cost involved and it has been explored,” he said.

“We have in place a number of staff who currently undertake the collection of rents.

“The CPG at a meeting today requested that it be examined and the Head of Finance re-engage with them to look at how the costs might be minimised.”

Cllr Mae Sexton said she believed the large sums was down to an agreement between the Government and various public sector unions, otherwise known as the Croke Park Agreement.

“We have staff that already do some of that work and they are still on the costs of the Council,” she said. “They will have to remain as council staff.”

Other councillors, like John Browne struggled to understand the financial implications that could stem from the proposed move.

“That’s enormous,” he said, followed by a shout of “huge” from Cllr Peggy Nolan.

Evidence of the sizeable cost repercussions facing the Council came after a notice of motion was handed down by Fine Gael’s Micheal Carrigy.

A postmaster himself, Cllr Carrigy urged Longford County Council to support the long term future of the county’s post office network.

He said Longford was one of only three counties nationwide where tenants were unable to settle their rental bills at post offices.

Cavan, Leitrim and Westmeath had those policies in place he said, something which was badly lacking in Longford.

“The post office network is well capable of handling the work and it would be an endorsement by the local authority to maintain the post office structure in its present format.

“This will actually save the local authority money. There is no set up charge to An Post. The only charge would be to set up a barcode for each individual customer which is already in place for commercial water rates at present anyway. The only cost would be a fee per transaction to those who use the post office network.”