The Government could save taxpayers over €50m if key services such as motor tax renewals and payments for the controversial household charge are transferred to local post offices, it emerged this week.
Postmasters from right across the country held lengthy discussions with TDs at Leinster House last Wednesday as part of a concerted effort to preserve the long term future of post offices nationwide.
One of those who attended the meeting, Newtownforbes postmaster, Archie Bell, said there were plenty of positives to draw from the talks.
“It was very productive,” he maintained. “The networks are there in post offices to take on motor tax and the household charge so why not use it?”
Should government leaders agree to the move up to €85m could be saved with the likes of banking transactions and hospital charges also being transferred.
Mr Bell said the findings made perfect economic sense at a time when present services are already coming under pressure from a streadily diminishing public service payroll.
Handing control to banks and other financial institutions was simply not an option, he stressed.
“They (banks) are faceless. All of the resources are there in the post office system as it is so why not? Apart from economic or financial reasons, the post office has a reputation for trust and genuine personal service that is simply not on offer in any other financial institution,” he continued.
The findings, drawn up by accountancy specialists Grant Thornton, also uncovered a string of non quantifiable advantages following talks with community groups such as Age Action Ireland.
It found post offices, especially in some of the county’s more isolated parts, provide the only outlet for banking and financial services while also negating the threat of rural isolation for many communties.
According to Mr Bell, who also occupies the role as chairman of the Irish Postmasters Union Longford branch, the time for action has never been more pressing.
“Social welfare is up for tender next year so an awful lot hinges on the next couple of years. If that (social welfare) goes it could close a lot of post offices,” he admitted.
“That’s why this (implementing report) is so important. The network is there, we have the people in place to do the work. It makes sense.”