The Post Office network in Ireland is a very important resource that has served us well over the years and should be viewed as a resource that is similar to our electricity network. The network also provides employment for three thousand people.
There have been many closures and falling revenue over the years and still in 2011, there were 1,156 Post Offices throughout the country. Just over a thousand of these are deemed to be “sub Post-Offices” where the managers are all self-employed. One of the greatest assets that the Post Office network has is the contract from the Dept. Of Social Protection.
The importance of the Post Office network is the fact that it reaches into every community, both urban and rural (there are 1,156 post-offices while there are only 412 Credit Unions).
“There are greater opportunities than ever to extend the range of services that the Post Office network could offer. As so many of our Bank branches have abandoned our smaller towns and villages there is a very clear vacuum that could be exploited by the Post Office”.
“Direct payments as part of its ecommerce plan may seem a wonderful idea but if it results in half of our Post Offices having to close their doors leading to further unemployment then we have to think of the social consequences”.
“Motor Taxation and Household charges could also provide an opportunity for the Post office to provide additional services. The Grant Thornton report in its cost benefit analysis clearly shows that the government could save money by extending the range of services provided by the Post Office”.
“Not everything can be accounted for in financial terms – Community groups are forever emphasising the importance of the social role played by the local Post Office which cannot be counted in Euros and cents but affects the daily lives of all those who live in our communities”.
The Grant Thornton Report Conclusion
The Future of the Post Office network in Ireland
A Review of Potential Service Contracts on behalf of the Irish Postmasters Union April 2012
The financial viability of the post office network is challenged as a consequence of the significant decline in traditional revenues and dependence on its contract to deliver social welfare. The implications of these challenges are that if local post offices close many of the services they provide will not be easily replicated by other service providers. To mitigate these threats it is important that the post office network builds upon its strengths and continue diversify its products offerings.
One of the primary aims of this report was to identify and evaluate potential service contracts that might be available to the post office network. Based on our analysis the potential future services that offer the greatest opportunity and could be easily added to its current service offering are:
- motor taxation;
- extension of the banking services available;
- household charges;
- and hospital charges.
Our findings show that all the above service contracts have positive CB ratios, which indicate that they would add value and enhance the post office network. Of these four potential service contracts,
Motor tax is the most attractive option and offers the greatest potential for the post office network and an attractive option for Government.
A significant issue when considering the long term sustainability of the post office network are the socio economic factors which are substantial. There is a significant concern by community stakeholders about the decline in the number of rural post offices and the impact this may have on their members. It is therefore important that the experience of the UK is noted and there is awareness of the cost to the communities and to the Government of replacing such a network.