11 Sept 2016.
Lack of Government commitment failing communities and rural Ireland
Postmasters are to take a ‘more radical approach’ to demand Government action to secure the future of the Post Office Network.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) Executive and Branch Officers held an emergency meeting this weekend (Saturday) to consider what course Postmasters will take as they are frustrated by an ongoing lack of commitment by the Government to use Post Offices.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said at the meeting members gave a mandate to the Executive to take a tougher, more vocal and more radical approach in their demand for Government to invest in the Network’s future and to make more services available.
Promises to deliver additional Government Services which the Network can provide such as Motor Tax, at a saving to Government in excess of €60m, have not progressed.
This compounds the removal of Department of Social Protection cheque payments from the Post Office Network earlier this year and the insistence by some Government Departments that payments due to them, by members of the public, are made by banker’s drafts rather than using Post Office services.
Mr. O’Hara said the Union had been involved in the Bobby Kerr Chaired Post Office Network Renewal Working Group, which also includes Government and An Post, since early this year. The Group was mandated to report by mid-summer with a blueprint including policy, services and investment commitments for Post Offices.
However, the process remains ongoing and Postmasters remain to be convinced that it will provide the level of response required.
“We have run well past the agreed deadline. Our members wanted to know when it will conclude and what it will deliver. The leadership of the Union has been asked to do all we can to put Post Offices onto the political agenda and encourage the Government to commit tangible investment and services.
“Postmasters are no longer going to be appeased by Government saying that they support the Network while they are allowing business to be taken away and not sanctioning new services. Continuance of the current situation for much longer will result in a breakdown of the Network Renewal Group process.”
Postmasters are also involved in a second Working Group, Chaired by Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring, which is looking to develop ‘Community Hub’ Post Offices which provide an extended range of citizen services for people living in isolated rural areas.
This group was announced last Spring and due to have pilots in place this year. However, it has only met once to date.
The IPU added that it is further disappointed that while these discussions have been ongoing An Post has been consolidating its mails service in rural areas with the role of Postmasters being eroded by a new centralised collection / delivery system for Postmen.
The IPU represents in excess of 1,000 Postmasters across Ireland who operate the vast majority of Ireland’s 1,100 Post Offices.
More information at www.communityandpostoffice.ie
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
Notes to Editor
- Network Renewal Working Group
This group was established in early 2016 to ‘Develop a Five Year Strategy for the Network’. It is being Chaired by Bobby Kerr and includes the Government, as shareholder, represented by the Departments of Communications and Social Protection, the Irish Postmasters’ Union and An Post.
The Group is overseen by the Minister for Communications and has authority to call on input from other Government Departments when relevant. The group was due to Report by July 2016. It is mandated to deal with issues such as:
- How Government can support the Post Office Network to be the provider of choice for Social Protection payments (either in cash or e-payment)
- Agree a five year plan for the future size and distribution of the Network
- Roll out the new business / services identified such as Motor Tax
- Introduction of a Post Office based Standard Bank Account
- Develop and agree new Postmaster contracts, with agreed income protection measures, to include the funding of an exit strategy for Postmasters who may not be viable.
- ‘Community Hubs’ Working Group
A parallel Working Group to ‘Develop a Nationwide Pilot of Post Office Community Hubs’ and to establish the ‘Social Value’ of the Network, and improve access to services in rural areas, was announced last Spring and aimed to have pilots in place later this year.
The Group is being chaired by the Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring and includes representation from the Postmasters, relevant Government Departments and An Post. The group has met once so far.