COVID-19 impact on Post Offices affecting local economies
Weekly collection needs to be offered for all welfare payments
Transactions in Post Offices are estimated to be down by 25% – heightening serious viability challenges facing the Network.
Postmasters today warned that coronavirus is having a very serious negative impact on transactions in Post Offices, and by extension cash spending in local economies.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union today called for people to be offered the choice to collect social welfare payments either weekly or every two weeks.
A comparison of transactions for the month of August comparing 2020 with 2019 by Postmasters estimated that Post Office business was down by 25%.
As a public safety measure welfare payments were reduced to every two weeks during COVID-19 lockdown and some payments were re-instated to weekly in August.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said the challenges facing village and town economies, and their Post Offices, will need a new response from Government.
“There are two connected happenings that Postmasters are reporting. Firstly, Post Offices are much quieter due to coronavirus. Second is the effect this has on other businesses. On weeks where little welfare is paid out, activity in the surrounding businesses can be ghostly. Government needs to recognise and connect these two factors. The local Post Office is about much more than the Post Office itself.”
The IPU’s concern was amplified by Chambers Ireland, which represents local businesses across the country. Chief Executive Ian Talbot said: “Chambers Ireland’s surveys have shown that SME’s, which support 63% of jobs, are the businesses most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
“A recent survey found that SMEs saw their revenue collapse by 53% during the initial pandemic period. Less frequent payment of welfare at Post Offices is a contributory factor to this and a balance needs to be achieved which protects public safety, but also supports SMEs and jobs.”
The IPU said people should be offered the choice of weekly or bi-weekly for all payments, as this would support local economies, help some people to better manage their finances and support business at Post Offices.
“Local businesses need more than ever the stimulus which collection of welfare and local spending provide. And Postmasters need it too. People have been acting responsibly in Post Offices and the IPU would like to thank customers for this,” Mr O’Hara said.
Chambers Ireland said it would also support such a move: “An option for public of weekly collection, together with continued safety measures in Post Offices and across all local businesses, makes sense for SMEs.”
Grant Thornton Post Office Report due next week
IPU President and Tramore Postmaster Seán Martin added that stark findings will be published in an independent report on the Post Office Network, commissioned from Grant Thornton, due to be launched next Wednesday (September 30th).
“Grant Thornton has carried out a comprehensive market review and financial analysis of the Post Office Network,. It will be decision time for Government. No further review, working group, or analysis will be necessary. It will be time to act.”
Independent research carried out by RED C in February found that:
- 91% said their Post Office provided a valuable service to the local community
- 86% support the Government providing financial support to keep their Post Office open
- 86% want more State services available at their Post Office.
There are 891 Postmaster and 45 An Post operated Post Offices in the country.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.