The IPU believes that there is huge potential to further develop the positive role that Post Offices play in our communities.
Post Offices can be developed into a nationwide resource of front offices for essential Government, Local Authority and commercial services – such as all State payments and forms, basic banking and greater retailing of White Label products (such as Postmobile or Post Insurance).
A world class IT system is in place in all Offices, with the smallest rural Offices technically capable of providing the same services as the GPO, meaning that no significant infrastructure upgrade is required to grow Post Office business. The cost of maintaining a meaningful Network for communities is not high, but it can only happen into the future as a result of political commitment – as Government and An Post hold decision making authority on what services are provided through the Post Office. This authority does not lie with Postmasters.
In terms of developing the Network’s role as a community based front office for core services, additional services which can be provided include:
- A basic bank account
- Motor Tax renewals
- Driver Licence renewals
- Rates, rents and other Local Authority payments
- Hospital charges
- Generation and return of all State information and application forms
- Local Hubs for health and transport services
- Tourism services.
There are also additional commercial services which can be developed:
- Insurance quotations
- Pension savings
- Increased White labelling (retailing of existing existing products such mobile phones or insurances products under an An Post / Post Office brand).
Core importance of Social Protection Contract to Post Offices
The Social Protection contract and the transactions it generates are fundamental to the business model of the Post Office, accounting for more than 30% of all business. Postmasters are opposed to this business being handed over to the private commercial banks. Consumers should have a freedom to choose, but the Post Office should be promoted and supported, by the State, as the provider of choice.
Postmasters are currently working with An Post to develop a Post Office epayments account, enabling electronic transfers and payments through the Post Office system. People who prefer to collect their payments in person at the Post Office should continue to have the choice to do so.
There are benefits to cash collection that should be taken into account:
- It assists significantly in minimising welfare fraud
- Uncollected monies are returned to the Department
- Cash collection is free for the citizen, while bank transfer involves a user transaction fee.
The Social Protection Contract was worth €57m to An Post in 2014. Postmasters were paid €25m of this in transaction fees. An Post returned €65m, of uncollected benefits, to the Department of Social Protection in 2013. Some of this may have been subsequently paid out, however there would be no return of any uncollected payments from an Electronic Funds Transfer system, leaving the Department potentially exposed up to €65m, far in excess of what is paid to Postmasters.