Postmasters have voiced concern following the announcement of a plan to tender the contract for TV Licence renewal, included in the Broadcasting Bill published on Friday.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) said the collection of TV Licence fees is worth €3m to the Network annually – and very important business for Post Offices.
If this business is lost, the IPU warned that it would place hundreds more Post Offices at risk of closing.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said: “Postmasters understand the revenue challenges faced by RTE and difficulties for An Post in collecting the fee. However, for many customers the current service is working perfectly well as it is and Postmasters greatly value this business.
“Postmasters favour this contract remaining with An Post. If a major utility were to win the contract it is likely that it would push for a deduct at source approach, thereby removing the need for use of the Post Office.”
The IPU welcomed a five-year commitment to providing TV Licence renewals at Post Offices as part of the Tender contract, but warned that this may make little difference if An Post does not retain the contract.
Mr O’Hara added that: “Moving forward it is also important that customers will also have the option of purchasing licences for their computer and phone devices at the Post Office counter, as RTE licencing is to expand beyond television sets.”
IPU Donegal Spokesperson Finola McBride said the TV Licence renewal service lies within a much wider challenge which Government needs to do much more to address.
“After a major plan for the Post Office Network was agreed with Government last year – almost no progress has been made on expanding the range of public services provided through the Network. This was a cornerstone commitment in the plan.
“Postmasters have agreed to new contracts, new opening hours and accepted the need for some consolidation. New Government services are critical to offset the ongoing decline in social welfare payments.
“As online transactions increase and over the counter transactions reduce and are not replaced – hundreds more Post Offices face short-term threat of closure.
“Post Offices simply must diversify their over-the-counter offerings. Many services have long been identified such as car tax, drivers’ licences, Leap cards and identity services.
“The IPU has recently written to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton seeking a meeting on these issues and has not received an offer to engage. We are keenly awaiting a date with the Minister and to know what actions he and his colleagues are taking.
“The IPU calls on every Government Department to publish a plan with details of additional services which can be provided, along with a timeline of when they will become available.
“If Government does not take a serious level of initiative, further large-scale Post Office closures are inevitable – and for those remaining a Public Service Obligation (PSO) model will become necessary”, Ms McBride concluded.
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