Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says the Government needs to wake up to the fact that post offices must be allowed to widen the services they offer if they are to remain viable.  He was reacting to a proposal by the Communications Minister to increase the price of stamps.

Deputy Smith explained, “This increase, which will be the second this year, cannot be seen as a solution to the current financial problems facing An Post.  The Minister and An Post management must realise that incremental price increases alone cannot finance the company.

“Post Offices play an important economic role in many towns and villages by providing social welfare payments as well as a social link for people living in isolated areas.  However attempts by this and the previous Government to direct social welfare recipients towards online payments rather than using their local post office has seriously damaged service levels.

“Fianna Fáil has continually called for the post office network to be allowed to expand the services it offers.  Motor tax payments, local authority charges and hospital charges could all be paid at the post office.  Financial services could also be developed.  Many rural areas have lost their local bank branches and the post office could capitalise on this by filling the gap.

“Despite the publication of the final report of the Post Office Network Business Development Group back in January, not one of the recommendations have been implemented.  In reply to a Parliamentary Question, Minister Ring refers to “a number of working groups” being established and “the streamlining of products and services” but gives no definite timelines.

“Fine Gael failed to protect our post office services over the past five years and that trend looks set to continue.  Increases in the price of stamps will do little to improve An Post’s long term financial future.  The recommendations contained in the PONBDG report must be implemented without delay if our post office network is to remain viable, if jobs can be saved and essential community services retained”, concluded Deputy Smith.