The Rural Independent Group have this week once again called on the Government to assist the under pressure rural post office network, in light of the very alarming recent analysis undertaken by the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU), which indicates a €17 million shortfall between retail revenue and network operating costs for 2021. This shortfall equates to an average loss of €19,181 per post office.
The Group’s determined call for Government intervention must be delivered as part of Budget 2021.
This urgent funding is necessary to cover the projected shortfall in revenues post offices receive for their work, which has been severely impacted by Covid-19.
Speaking from his Tipperary constituency today, the leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie McGrath, stated: “As a Group, we have been consistently raising the crisis impacting the Irish Post Office network. In fact, we introduced an extensive PMB motion on the matter in the Dail in November 2016.
“That motion called for immediate actions on a number of concurrent fronts, including a five-year holding plan commitment, an action plan to sustain the future viability of the network, community banking through the network and the provision of one-off funding for the organisation.”
“Regrettably, despite the fact that the motion was passed by Dáil Éireann, almost none of the proposed measures have been implemented four years on. We acknowledge that An Post have established a Strategic Plan for the medium-long term future of the company, covering the period 2017 – 2021; however, it is now clear that this plan is inadequate and must be reviewed in tandem with direct Government intervention.”
“As such, we are again calling for all of the proposals contained in the agreed motion to be implemented without delay.
“However, as an immediate measure, given the findings of the recent Grant Thornton report for the IPU, it is now clear that the once-off funding we called for in 2016 must be delivered in Budget 2021: otherwise, many post offices across the country will face uncertain futures and the likelihood of closures in the new year,” Deputy McGrath continued.
“In fact, we are deeply concerned that if the Government do not act on this call, then the entire post office network could collapse. The report projects that the annual expense of the network is set to cost €70 million in 2021 but will generate a retail revenue of only €53 million.”
“We fear that many local post offices, large and small, urban and rural, could be forced to close, if the financial environment under which they operate, and Government inaction continue.”
“State funding for post office networks is available in the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Finland and Poland, with the approval of the European Commission. Thus, state funding or a subsidy model can also be adopted here.”
“Over 30% of the population use the post office every week in Ireland. They provide for the distribution of €4.6 billion of social welfare-related payments, together with an immeasurable spin-off support to other local businesses and communities. While, separate research carried out by RED C in February 2020 found that: 91% believe their post office provides a valuable service to the local community, 86% supports the Government providing financial support to keep their post office open and 86% wish to see more State services available at their post office,” said Deputy McGrath.
“The time for Government pondering is now over. We do not need another report or committee to evaluate this matter. This latest IPU evaluation clearly signals that timely action is crucial. The anticipated level of closures, across the network, can now only be averted by a Government injection of funding. That is why we remain steadfastly committed to every post office and post-worker and implore the Government to finally act,” concluded Deputy McGrath.