IPU general secretary Brian McGann.
IPU highlights need for long term strategy for post offices
Postmasters are calling for government action on the future of post offices by establishing an inter-departmental working group to develop a long-term plan for the viability and sustainability of the network.
The Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) called in particular for decisive action from Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin following a review, earlier this year, which showed that providing additional services at post offices would save taxpayers €53m and increase business by 8%.
IPU general secretary Brian McGann said: "Post offices are taking a proactive open for business approach by identifying costed ways to maximise the range and quality of services they provide. However, government sanction is needed for additional services to be provided and no response, or action, has yet been forthcoming."
The IPU was presenting its case to TDs and senators at an Oireachtas briefing today Wednesday July 4 and said responsibility is falling between different departments and that there is no coherent long-term plan to provide a roadmap or benchmark.
The report - The Future Of The Post Office Network In Ireland - by Grant Thornton, said making motor tax payments, additional financial transactions, household charges and hospital costs payable at post offices made sense in the context of current cost saving reforms and would save taxpayers €53m.
Furthermore, post offices are the largest retail network in the country with 1,100 branches enabling these services to be provided in the community.
"We are calling for Oireachtas members to support the establishment of a inter-departmental group to work towards a long-term strategy and plan for post offices," said Mr McGann.
"The IPU would work with this group to progress our proposals which are beneficial for taxpayers and for communities."
The major potential challenge faced by post offices, as outlined in the Grant Thornton review, is that approximately 30% of post office business is generated from social welfare payments and this contract is up for review in 2013. The IPU is keen to retain this contract, but also pressing to develop new revenue streams.
Mr. McGann said none of the additional contract payments proposed are technically difficult to implement, but they do require approval from a number of government departments to move forward.
"For example, making motor taxation payable at post offices would require aligning the post office computer system, via pin codes, with the motor taxation computer system in Shannon, just as is already in place with the online payments system.
"So the essential infrastructure is already in place. Savings would be made by reducing pressure on other public services and allowing redeployment of staff for essential services."