13 May 2016.
Postmasters have called for urgent progress on Post Offices in the ‘first 100 days’ of the new government, ahead of their Annual Conference in Athlone this weekend.
Postmasters called for the Bobby Kerr led Five Year Strategy, the piloting of ‘Service Hub’ Post Offices and Motor Tax payments to be readied for delivery within 100 days, now that Ministers have been appointed and a Government is in place.
Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) General Secretary Ned O’Hara said commitments were made at the launch of the Bobby Kerr Chaired Post Office Network Business Development Group Report last January that a Five Year Strategy and pilot Service Hub Post Offices would be in place by July.
Commitment has also been made in new Programme for Government to consider enabling payment of Motor Tax at Post Offices, which has been estimated would save the tax payer €60m over five years.
“Between the General Election the formation of Government, we have had a ten-week period during which nothing has progressed. If this Government wants to send a clear signal that it is serious about supporting communities, then there are clear steps which can be taken – complete the Five Year Strategy, commence the pilot of Service Hub Post Offices and sanction payment of Motor Tax.
“The Post Office Network is under huge economic pressure and there is no time for delay.
“The new Ministers – Denis Naughten in Communications and Heather Humphries in Rural Affairs – need to take clear lines of responsibility and work collectively with Postmasters, An Post, Bobby Kerr and the Department of Social Protection to deliver tangible increases in Government services and transactions through the Post Office Network,” Mr O’Hara said.
Postmasters 94th Annual Conference takes place in Athlone over Saturday and Sunday with Postmasters from across the country to attend.
IPU President Paddy McCann said the future of Post Offices was a political choice and the public had made it very clear to election candidates that they want greater investment in communities from this Government and that Post Offices lie at the centre of this.
“If we want to keep our Post Offices as a community based providers of core State, Financial and Social services, then this Government is going to have to invest in the Network and sanction more services to it.”
“Unless this Government moves decisively and quickly, as promised in the Programme for Government, hundreds of Post Offices will become unviable and the voters will have been betrayed.”
Two Working Groups were established in the final weeks of the last Government, but have been in limbo since the election was called in February.
The Network Renewal Working Group was established in January and chaired by Bobby Kerr. It is tasked with developing a Five Year Strategy for the future of the Post Office Network and to deal with issues such as the size and distribution of the Network, Postmasters contracts and appropriate exit strategies for Post Offices which are not be viable. On establishment it was due to report this July.
The Service Hubs Working Group was also announced in January and aims to develop a number of pilot ‘Service Hub’ Post Offices in rural areas, which would be enhanced one-stop-shop facilities for public services. Pilots were due to be in place by the summer and the Group is yet to meet.
Ministerial involvement in both Working Groups was part of the terms under which both Groups were established.
The IPU called for the new Ministers to immediately now assume these roles with the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughton to take oversight of the Network Renewal Group and the Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphries to Chair the Service Hubs Group.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications (086) 317 9731 / firstname.lastname@example.org