Cut-off Communities – Postmasters require that bank levies be used to sign off the post office network

Postmasters have called for bank levy funding to be earmarked and earmarked for post offices to provide services to communities that are cut off.

They believe the money could support financial and government services such as B. Passport applications and other work that might currently involve visiting a Garda station.

The bank levy target of €150m was lowered last year when Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe exempted Ulster Bank and KBC from the levy as they prepare to exit the Irish market.

This means that the government’s annual revenue from the tax, which was originally introduced for three years in 2014 to support economic recovery after the financial crash, will be reduced by around 63 million euros.

The annual levy was initially extended to 2021, but in last year’s budget Mr Donohoe (below) extended it further.

Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) President Seán Martin said the levy should be re-examined to see how it could be used to benefit communities.

He said the departures of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market will further limit customer access to banking services as branches of other banks will also close in rural towns and villages.

“The government must continue with the bank levy and use part of the proceeds to support our post offices in providing alternative banking services to remote rural and deprived urban areas,” Mr Martin said.

“In Ireland there are already around 540 post offices in areas where there are no bank branches within a 5km radius. They are willing to replace banks and provide a lifeline for their local communities, but they must be paid for that service and it is only right that banks contribute to that cost.”

A similar model exists in France via La Banque Postale.

Community banks are traditionally regional and focused on community and customer service rather than profit.

Last year, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan proposed reviewing banking services in underserved communities to build a public system supported by credit unions and An Post.

Mr Martin said access to banks needed to be improved and the funding would also help sustain the future of the post office network.

Earlier this month, a review of the post office network carried out by Grant Thornton recommended that the government invest €12 million a year to help keep the network up and running.

The report said there is “the ability and willingness to provide additional services to the government in return for investment, which could take the form of an annual contract fee.”

Mr Martin said further investment in post offices would have social benefits and help reduce carbon emissions by making services available to people closer to where they live.

He said in addition to community banking services, post offices could be used to process grant applications for the National Retrofit Plan, maintain the electoral roll and other identity
Verification work frequently carried out at Garda stations.

“The fact is that rural communities and low-income urban communities are being hit hardest by the withdrawal of banking services,” added Mr. Martin.

“This disparity is exacerbated by the government’s rush to bring its services online.

“Not everyone has computer skills or access to a computer. Older people and people in lower socioeconomic groups are most at risk.

“The banking sector has a responsibility to its customers and government has a broader responsibility to create a just and equal society. The state is still by far the majority owner of AIB and PTSB, so it cannot ignore its responsibility in this regard.

“We believe banks should be required to pay a fee to access the postal network to ensure that no one is left behind by the withdrawal of local banking services.

“The easiest way to do that is to shield funding from the €87 million raised by the bank levy this year and extend the levy beyond 2022.” Cut-off Communities – Postmasters require that bank levies be used to sign off the post office network

Fry Electronics Team

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