Fay demands support for ‘vital’ post office network
The prospect of “unrestrained post office closures” has spurred Cavan County Council to demand that the government put in place measures to save the postal network. A motion by Cllr Brendan Fay (Ind) at the July meeting of the authority was tabled to highlight the diminution of State support for the sector.
“This is the second time I have put this motion forward. The last time we got no response at all,” an exasperated Cllr Fay told the Celt.
“People are worried that post offices are going to close. A submission to government by the Irish Postmasters' Union early this year suggested that, if €17M was invested in the post office network, it would transform its viability,” Cllr Fay stated.
At present the Post Offices deliver over €4.6 billion in cash transactions to Social Welfare customers, without transaction charges. One of the pitches in the Postmasters' submission was that local offices provide one-stop-shop services, reducing the need for multiple trips and so advances the ‘Green Agenda’.
There was a stark alert in that submission: “There is a cliff-face in front of the post office network coming at the end of June. Decisions need to have been made and actions taken before then. A Grant Thornton Report warned of ‘unrestrained post office closures’ after June 2021.”
Cllr Fay's motion called on members to press the government to put structures and financial assistance in place to save the post office network.
“This is a vital service, particularly for older people,” implored Cllr Fay.
Fianna Fáil's John Paul Feeley (FF) agreed and urged people to use their local post to the greatest extent possible to protect the vital service.
This was a viewpoint reiterated by Cllr TP O'Reilly (FG) who went on to say: “If people don't use the services, it is inevitable that closures will happen.”
Cllr Patricia Walsh (FF) added to this contention saying: “They is no point in crying when the services are gone.”
Cllr Fay said that the call by the IPU for “actions and not platitudes” has to be followed up on and that the government must prevent An Post cutting back on the number of post offices in the country.
“They are forcing closures, but they won't take the blame for the closures. They will point to retirements and the lack of people willing to take up vacant positions. The fact is they have cut the annual payment to postmasters from €85,000 per annum to €55,000 per annum since the start of July,” he explained.
The independent councillor said the reduction hits postmasters who have to hire staff or pay rents on their premises: “This cut does not make it reasonable or workable unless you are going to run it 100% by yourself. It's not workable.”
Cllr Fay said promoting the use of post offices enhances social inclusion and stimulates local economies: “There has to be investment in the facilities of post offices. E-payments, passports, drivers' licences renewals could all be offered through post offices. We really need to save what the post office brings to local communities.
“I have seen the post office in Killeshandra close, the post office in Swanlinbar close, there are post offices across the county up for tender, we are hoping that a lot of them will be there next year. I saw a minister say 'use it or lose it', but that is a very negative approach. That attitude is a wrong approach for our political representatives to take to what is a vital services in the towns and villages of Ireland,” he concluded.
Cllr Fay is hoping that, by continuing to press the issue, the government will take note and provide the sector with the necessary supports.