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Snippet Contents:

Post offices have changed over time. In the 19th century, they were places people one went to get information, which is very similar to how individuals use websites now. At the most recent election, the Social Democrats put forward a proposal for a viable community banking sector using the already existing post office network. The timing in this regard could not be more appropriate as the post office network is in trouble. There has been a post-banking crash, a recession and a bailout and trust in traditional banks is at an all-time low. The vast majority of people would rather bank with publicly-owned or community-owned institutions. Households and small businesses are finding it difficult to secure loans and are increasingly frustrated with a banking system that works against them, not for them. There are issues of trust and responsiveness. A report commissioned by Irish Rural Link found that improved access to finance will be a vital component of continuous economic recovery and development, especially for Irish small to medium businesses and people across the country. The SME sector is one of the sectors most exposed to Brexit and Enterprise Ireland-supported companies represent approximately 5,000 different companies employing 192,000 people right across Ireland. It is a very important sector and the post office service could be a support to that sector.
There are approximately 1,100 post offices throughout the country and these provide a ready-made branch network, with a physical presence in towns and villages up and down the island. We proposed a plan which would see the State and Central Bank work with the Credit Union movement and the post office network to build a strong community banking sector. In the United Kingdom in 2012, the relationship between Bank of Ireland UK and the Royal Mail was extended and the post office financial relationship has delivered over 2.8 million customers, a savings book of more than €17 billion, a loan book of €3 billion and a comprehensive range of financial products, including savings accounts, mortgages, motor and home insurance and credit cards. A part-Irish-owned bank provides the service we are looking for in the post office system here. There are some 11,000 branches too, approximately ten times the number that we have in this country. The expertise is there, it is already happening somewhere else and it can happen here. Customers of local post offices could have full current account facilities, including access to debit cards and online banking. We also propose a feasibility study of the possibility of post offices operating enhanced services, similar to what I have just spoken about. We have to have a greater vision than to just keep increasing the cost of the stamp. That vision must keep pace with the changing times and provide the mechanism needed for the post offices to strengthen their valued position at the heart of Irish communities, in both rural and urban Ireland.