Kilkenny, 5 May 2015
Post offices are facing a fundamental shift in the way people communicate and conduct their financial affairs, according to Minister for Communications Alex White. Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) in Kilkenny this evening, Minister White said the post office network would only survive by "harnessing the strengths of the network, and adapting to what is now a dynamic environment of evolving customer preferences and behaviour, together with rapid technological change."
Minister White said: "The achievements of the past are no guarantee of a successful future. A solid network of vibrant post offices can only be maintained if we are delivering the community services that people want today and tomorrow."
Minister White said that, while a sustained recovery will make the economic environment more favourable, it will not resolve all of the challenges that post offices face. "This is because you are not simply responding to a cyclical business downturn. Rather, you are dealing with a fundamental shift in the way people communicate and conduct their financial affairs. I am convinced that our post office network can look to the future in a positive way."
Minister White said the number of post office closures had slowed dramatically in the last four years. Between 2006 and 2010 there were almost 200 net post office closures, but there were only 24 between 2010 and 2014.
He said post offices could create "a lifeline to local communities" by filling the gap caused by bank branch closures "Post offices could become the banks of rural Ireland, providing a one-stop service for family finance and small business. This is already happening, with the acquisition of Aviva Ireland's branch office business and an extended range of AIB services. Last month's announcement of a partnership with Ulster Bank was also good news. This development needs to accelerate, and I believe that more needs to be done to raise public awareness that you can now do your banking at the local post office," he said.
Earlier this year, Minister White established a Post Office Network Business Development Group under the Chairmanship of businessman Bobby Kerr. The group, which is exploring further potential public and commercial business that post offices can pursue, will report later this year.