A Grant Thornton report commissioned by the Irish Postmasters Union claims that 557 post offices around the country could close by 2017 if An Post loses the Social Welfare contract.
In another scenario highlighted in the report, 444 post offices could be lost within the next three years if direct electronic payments are introduced and 75 per cent of Social Welfare payments are conducted in this format.
An Post holds the Social Welfare contract for a period of two years, with possible extensions for up to four additional years, but the Government is committed to introducing electronic payments as part of its e-commerce strategy.
Grant Thornton concluded that the government needs to bring additional business through the post office if the network is to be sustained. It found that if motor tax renewals were available through the post office, it would save the exchequer €60.6 million over a five-year period, although the additional business alone would not compensate for the loss of the welfare payments contract.
Granard postmaster and Vice President of the Irish Postmasters Union, Padraig McNamara said: “Put simply the Government doesn’t have a plan to sustain the network and without such a plan there is no action being taken by Government Departments to drive new business, thus putting the network in danger of being lost forever. We are not against Government-we know they are supportive of us-but we want an action plan and timelines that will prevent Post Office closures.”
Voicing her support for the report’s findings, Sinn Féin candidate for the Longford district in the upcoming local elections, Barbara Smyth, added, “If you take away our Post Offices other Longford businesses will suffer and that is the last thing Longford needs. Closures also increase the level of isolation and loneliness for those living in rural Longford. I believe there should be a warning system by An Post to let communities throughout Longford know if there is a danger of their local post office closing.”