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Snippet Contents:

In my area Rialto post office was recently closed. There is a post office in Dolphin's Barn and Kilmainham which are handy enough for me to get to on my bicycle, but there are many aged people, people with disabilities and others who are new to the community who depend on the local post office for the service, convenience and the vital social role it plays in their life. It seems that where we have problems in the delivery of public services the Government tries to put a plaster on a situation instead of being determined to protect and to ring-fence public services. Vital semi-State companies that play a very important social role are being considered as commodities in a competitive world that the Government seeks to cut and reduce. In a similar vein we had an announcement yesterday that it is intended to let hundreds of Bus Éireann workers go. We must think strongly about the cost to the elderly and the most vulnerable of what the proposed increase would mean. We should not consider it as just a small increase that would give us cashflow, it is a serious setback for the overall solution to An Post’s problems if we think we will address it by increasing the price of a stamp.
A plethora of working groups are looking at the issue. The Kerr report examined it in depth. Following that, a post office hub was set up which is overseen by the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. A steering committee was set up by Mr. Dermot Divilly to consider the Kerr report and when he gets back to work the Minister, Deputy Naughten, and his officials will examine the potential for incorporating motor tax and other Government services into An Post services. That is all great, but we have not had an outcome resulting from the reports. It strikes me that if there is a crisis then the speed and interest with which it is dealt with by so many groups, committees and Ministers should be coming to fruition.
In my experience, the problem with having so many different groups looking at various aspects of a service is that when the closure of a post office such as the one in Rialto occurs one does not know who to speak to. One speaks to the Minister, Deputy Naughten, who says he will look after that and get back to one. Days and weeks go by and when one e-mails the Minister he says he passed it on to the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. When one contacts the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, he acknowledges one's concern and then there is a further acknowledgement and a statement that he is looking into the matter. Weeks later one finally gets a communication saying one will have to talk to management in An Post about this. It is a case of "I know nothing; I am from Barcelona". That is what happens when one creates a network of responsibility involving this, that and the other committee and at the end of the day the crisis is not addressed and the service suffers.
There are solutions. One was mentioned in the previous discussion on the issue and it related to addressing the effect of the closure of banks in rural communities. We should have received a report back on it by now because it is not rocket science. We are not reinventing the wheel. The banks have shut up and gone off and one solution was to replace the services that were provided by high street banks with something similar to the Sparkasse model in Germany or the Kiwibank in New Zealand. I used the Sparkasse model when I was in Germany. One got all the banking services from a post office-type banking service that brought a dividend back to the government. Instead of having a cruel and inhumane banking sector that does not give a damn about its customers, one could create a community banking service that would make An Post viable and keep post offices in every rural village and small community like Rialto. Those are the solutions we must examine and we cannot take forever to do so. We will oppose the increase because it will be the first of many. If the Government thinks that is how one deals with a problem then it will try to do it again. Everybody should be aware of that and should oppose the Bill.