Monday 17 June 2019

List of 'at risk' Post Offices is demanded

Tom O’Callaghan, chair of the Independent Postmaster Group
Tom O’Callaghan, chair of the Independent Postmaster Group

Deborah Coleman

Calls have been made to An Post to reveal the list of Wicklow post offices which are being offered exit deals in a bid to reduce the number of outlets in operation nationwide.

According to the Independent Postmaster Group, the offices in question must be revealed to the public, who deserve to know if their local service is to be phased out.

Chairman Tom O'Callaghan has called on An Post and Communications Minister Denis Naughten to reveal the list and said that 'whether a community has a post office, or not, should not hinge on a postmaster wishing to retire'.

'The public are entitled to know and nobody is willing to name the post offices which are being offered a deal. This is just the worst thing for towns and villages and there is no need for it,' he said.

As part of a restructuring plan, An Post is offering a number of current postmasters a choice between an exit deal with two-year salary pay-off or a new seven-year contract which, after three years, has no guarantee that incomes will not drop.

In addition to this, the Government contract for social welfare payments will go out to tender again in 2019 and there is no guarantee that An Post will win it, sparking concern for the viability of the model.

Individual postmasters will have to make the decision for themselves but one south Wicklow operator told the Wicklow People that 'once they (post offices) are closed, they will not reopen'.

There is some concern amongst operators in the county who say they are very unsure about what decision to make.

'I have no idea, at this stage' said a second operator in a rural part of south Wicklow. 'I'm keeping quiet and seeing what will happen. I have not made any decision because I'm really not sure,' he said.

Another neighbouring operator said that it is a 'very individual decision'.

'Everyone is a bit confused and it is a very big decision. It depends on the person, I suppose, and whether you are willing to stay on and adapt the business or not. Those who want to keep going and grow the business will sign the seven-year contract but others might be happy to take the exit deal. After seven years, there is no guarantee and we don't know what sort of contract, if any, would be offered,' the operator said.

According to Mr O'Callaghan the launch of a new community bank 'owned by the people' would solve the problem and allow all rural post offices to remain viable into the future.

He said that a Dáil private members' motion to this effect has already been passed and 'is sitting on the shelf' waiting to be enacted.

Mr O'Callaghan wrote to every local councillor in the country yesterday, asking them table a motion in support of calls on An Post to impose a five year postponement on the plans, to allow time for such a bank to be established with a view to strengthening the current post office network.

Bray People