Recommendations to expand the range of services offered in local post offices have been welcomed as a positive step in securing the future of rural post offices.
Sligo/North Leitrim Deputy and Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Michael Colreavy, has welcomed the launch of the report ‘Promoting a sustainable future for the post office network’ by the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications.
The report recommends that post offices play a more central role in communities and urges the Government to consider using post offices for processing motor tax renewals, hospital charges, water charges, property tax, business rates, rents and other public payment services.
This is welcome news, especially as concern mounts that around 400 post offices will be threatened with immediate closure if An Post fails to secure a contract to process social welfare payments – the contract is currently out to tender.
Deputy Colreavy said: “Communities have suffered from the loss of many services over the past number of years. The closure of schools, Garda stations and local businesses has resulted in a reduction in infrastructure and identity for communities. This report aims to find a path for the survival of the post office network.
“The post office network relies heavily on the Social Welfare contract. It should be an imperative that contract is retained by post offices. However, the post office network should also aim to attract business from other sources. This report outlines a number of options for post offices such as assuming responsibility for the payment of motor tax renewals, business rates, rents and other Government payment services.”
“While the number of letters that are passing through post offices has fallen, a trend that is replicated throughout Europe, there has been an increasing number of parcels being handled by post offices. This change has been brought about by the increase in online shopping and the post office network should adapt to these changing conditions, said Deputy Colreavy.
“The post office network, as a whole, provides a valuable resource to local communities, especially those in rural areas. With the loss of so many services in rural areas, it is essential that the post office network is retained to provide and cater for communities across the country,” he said.