Measures suggested by a new report will help support and maintain the post office network right across County Clare.
I worked with locals in playing a key role in saving the post office at Cratloe, and believe the agreement is good news for the future of the critical network of post offices.
I also welcome the news that An Post has renewed the contract with the Department of Social Protection for cash social welfare payments at Post Offices.
The current Social Welfare contract was signed in December 2013 for an initial two years with an option for extension for a further four years in a yearly basis – total of six years.
The value of the contract in 2015 was approx. €54 million with over 38 million social welfare payments being made at Post Offices across the post office network.
I am delighted that the contract has been renewed and will provide a measure of certainty for the post office network.
While post offices remain central to Irish communities, there is a challenge to ensure that they remain competitive. In recent weeks, The Business Development Group was asked to identify new business opportunities for the post office network and has reported back with a number of recommendations.
Post offices need to offer more to customers, including online banking, direct debits and ATM cards. I therefore very much welcome the news that eAccounts are to be rolled out in 2016.
As a result of this report an investigation will also take place into the feasibility of offering motor tax services in post offices.
A renewal process is to take place over the next six months and this review will address branch modernisation; the streamlining of products; postmaster payments and training for post office staff.
Financially supporting at-risk post offices for a number of years is another recommendation of the report and one that would make a significant difference.
An Post is one of Ireland’s most trusted brands and it is vital that we put our valued post office network on a sustainable footing into the future.
The post office is a defining facility in rural villages County Clare and right across the country. Implementing the recommendations of this report, though challenging, is very important. It is essential that we continue to create jobs in all parts of the country to provide business for post offices and to invest in vital services.
Fine Gael has a long term plan to keep the recovery going. Our plan will deliver more new jobs, spread right across the country, jobs that pay more than welfare, where hard work is rewarded. The plan will also deliver affordable, sustainable investments in services using the resources from growing employment.