Govt mounts another attack on Post Office Network – Calleary

An Post– Latest cynical move designed to drive business away from rural network – 

Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary has accused the Government of another cynical attack on the Post Office network after it emerged that the Department of Social Protection has sent new letters to social welfare recipients asking them to switch from receiving their payments at their local Post Office to having them paid directly into their bank accounts.

Deputy Calleary commented, “I have been contacted by a number of people who have received letters from the Department of Social Protection advising them to have their payments transferred directly into their bank accounts, rather than picking them up at their local Post Office.  This is the latest attempt by this Government to undermine the network by driving business away from local Post Offices”.

Alarmingly, the correspondence sent by the Department states “The department recommends direct payments to your current, deposit or savings account in a financial institution. This is the best payment option for you as you can receive your payment at a time and place that suits you”.

“Before the local elections last year, the then Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte gave assurances that the Post Office network would be protected.  However, less than 6 months later the Government attempted to remove the option for social welfare recipients to receive their Household Benefits Package payment at their local Post Office.  Following massive public resistance, Ministers were forced to row back and reconsider the move.

“Despite failing to ram their plan through, the Government appears to be trying more covert tactics to dismantle the Post Office infrastructure; this time by asking social welfare recipients to switch from picking up their payment at their local Post Office to having them transferred directly into their bank accounts.  There are already grave concerns about the future of the Post Office network – we’ve already had the closure of Knockmore in 2012, and an independent report last year concluded that hundreds of Post Offices could close by 2017, mainly due to the movement towards direct electronic transfer of social welfare payments.

“Fianna Fáil is strongly opposed to the downgrading of the Post Office network and has been arguing for the expansion of services across the board.  The Post Office is at the very heart of rural Ireland, particularly here in Mayo, where the local Post Office offers more than just services; it is a place for people to catch up on local news and meet people from other nearby areas.  Our policy document calls for rural Post Offices to be protected and supported through the roll out of new commercial ventures such as enhanced financial services and the possibility of using the Post Office as a central office for state payments and charges.

“There is a raft of untapped potential in our Post Offices and we need to maximise the services on offer.  Fine Gael and Labour must be prevented from continuing their attack on the network.  Commitments from this Government are not enough, we need to see tangible action to protect these community services”.