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Up to €1,000 per month sweetener for postmasters to keep post offices open

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The government is preparing to pay postmasters a sweetener of up to €1,000 a month to keep post offices open.

he Irish Independent expects a state subsidy of between €10,000 and €12,000 per year to be considered as part of a comprehensive national plan.

There are currently around 900 post offices across the state, most of which are independently operated by postmasters who are contracted by An Post. You are not a government official or an employee of An Post.

The post office network will be changed in line with a 2018 transformation deal agreed between the Government and the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU).

However, its pace has been slowed by Covid-19.

In addition, mail volumes are falling and there is a lot of uncertainty about the business.

Minister of State for Postal Services Hildegarde Naughton is preparing to go to government in the coming weeks with a “focused and timely proposal” for a financial support program for post offices Irish Independent have learned.

If agreed, it will be the first time the government has introduced such a support package for the post office network.

While the program is ‘time bound’, it is expected to operate for a number of years and could become permanent.

It aims to keep post offices open by providing direct financial support to operators.

The system is expected to work like others that subsidize an uneconomic service where companies have public service obligations.

“This will allow the transformation plan to be completed and give postmasters time to grow their business,” a senior source said.

“This is the first time the government has been able to directly support postmasters who run such a large part of the network.”

The program’s developers say it will also allow An Post, the umbrella of all offices, to continue seeking and winning new business, using its extensive network as a selling point.

The program is expected to resonate with Cabinet, where ministers have worried for a number of years about the demise of the post office at the branch level – which also sows the seeds of electoral disaster for local TDs.

Ms Naughton could not be reached for comment yesterday, but officials confirmed extensive work on paying postmasters has already been completed and a proposal will go to the government within weeks.

It comes after Ms Naughton helped deliver an €8.5million support package to postmasters, funded by An Post, in July last year.

However, that agreement expires at the end of this year and there have been dire warnings that there will be a knock-on effect of widespread closures as operators cannot survive on current revenues.

A source said: “We are aware of the need to preserve the network, particularly given that the 2022 census results, due next year, could identify well-growing population areas.

“Minister Naughton wants to give postmasters financial security so they can focus on growing their business. Additionally, it would provide security for the hundreds of thousands of people who use their local post office every week.”

The network currently provides postal services, pension and welfare payments, banking services and access to other government services, including passport renewals and payment of fines.

However, officials stressed that this does not mean that some post offices will not close due to retirement or personal choices, but that they should not close due to a lack of government support.

“If they go, in many cases it will be a personal decision of the postmaster,” the source said. However, it is believed that the payments will be enough to allow the vast majority to stay in business.

“We believe it is crucial that we do not repeat past mistakes and allow post offices to close,” said someone with insight into the draft package.

“We all believe we need to protect the network, but if post offices close and it turns out there is a future need, then that’s it
It will be very difficult to get her back.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/sweetener-of-up-to-1000-a-month-for-postmasters-in-attempt-to-keep-post-offices-open-41677004.html Up to €1,000 per month sweetener for postmasters to keep post offices open

Fry Electronics Team

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