CORK County Council is to seek an urgent meeting with senior management of An Post to discuss the future of hundreds of post offices which are threatened with closure. The proposed meeting came about following the unanimous support of a motion brought before the full sitting of Cork County Council by West Cork Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Hayes.
Cllr Hayes pointed out that An Post’s Chief Executive David McRedmond had remarked in March that there would be a major announcement in early summer, that could spell the closure of between 80 and 200 rural post offices. Almost one third of the country’s post offices have closed over the last 20 years, leaving approximately 1,100 left, of which half are deemed to be loss making.
Cllr Hayes’s motion called on the council to write to the relevant government departments asking for specific details on what has been done to ‘stop the rot’ and outline what practical steps have been introduced to make post offices economically viable and sustainable into the future.
Commenting after his motion was passed at a recent meeting of the council at County Hall, Cllr Hayes said, “For years we’ve listened to lip service from various Ministers and TD’s telling us how important rural post offices are to the social fabric of communities, yet they have done little or nothing to introduce measures to increase business and services through our local post offices.
“The Kerr Report, which was collated by successful businessman and retail expert Bobby Kerr, made some very practical suggestions of how to assist post offices to become viable.”
Cllr Hayes quoted from the report as well as making other suggestions such as recommending the continuation of social welfare payments though the post office network, increased financial services – especially in areas that no longer have the presence of a bank, the maintenance of the electoral register, jobseekers signing on, CAO grants and payments, payment of Department of Education exam fees, hospital charges, local authority charges, fines, septic tank registration, driving licence and medical card renewals, public and school bus ticketing, providing citizens information and tourist information. Rural post offices could also be a centre for office technology providing photocopying, printing, scanning and broadband services to a local area.
Cllr Hayes asked his council colleagues to contact their TDs to push for the immediate increase in services at post offices, remarking, “There will be no point jumping up and down in a few months time, when the guillotine falls on many of our rural post offices. We need to be proactive rather than reactive, so I’m calling on the government to explain what exactly they have done to grow business through post offices to make them more viable, and likewise An Post management need to come into the chamber before us to outline their plans, to ensure that one of the last public services remaining in our towns and villages are kept and built upon.”