“The Government must wake up to the threat to post offices in Co Longford”, the annual Conference of the Irish Postmasters’ Union was told by Longford postmaster Padraig McNamara last weekend.
Mr McNamara, who is a postmaster in Granard told delegates that the future of hundreds of post offices across the country now hung in the balance, because of the international tendering of social welfare payments contracts by the Government.
“We understand that there is a very good chance that in the short term An Post will retain the contract but a second tender is to be issued in June that could result in a major transfer of the social welfare payment system to an electronic form,” he said. “We are not against new technology or progress but the public are entitled to access their money in the way that best suits their needs. We do not yet know the full terms of the new tender but we are very concerned that it will force the successful tenderer to rush headlong down the e-commerce route.”
The Granard man went on to say that that approximately 400 post offices would close “over night” if An Post lost the payments contract and he pointed to the importance of post office services in the community.
“The Government has failed o utilise the outstanding network of 1,100 post offices throughout the country to provide additional services to communities,” Mr McNamara added. “We commissioned the accountancy firm Grant Thornton to validate our figures and they established that by allowing the public to renew their Motor Tax in Post Offices it would save the taxpayer €60m. We have received much support from politicians from all sides, including ministers, for our campaign to drive more business through the post office - but we have had no action. This is despite the savings available, as in the case of Motor Tax. It just doesn’t make sense.”
In conclusion Mr McNamara said, “The post office network is one of the few pieces of social infrastructure that is still playing a hugely significant part in the communities in which they are based. It is universally agreed that they should continue to continue to do so. The methods by which their future can be sustained are available to the decision makers. Let them act now before it is too late”.