Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and member of the Stormont Agriculture and Culture Committees, has welcomed the report by the Consumer Focus Post calling for Post Offices to begin offering more services.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and Party Chief Whip, has been a long-time campaigner for increased services in Post Offices, especially in rural offices.
The report, entitled ‘A front office for government services’ by Consumer Focus Post, the postal consumer champion says post offices could and should be providing more key government services.
Mr Swann said: “This report focuses on the lack of services that the Executive Departments are offering through the Post Offices, services that are available in larger Post Offices and in Post Offices across Great Britain.
“The Post Office has the most extensive number of branches across the Province and provides a service that cannot be matched by other agencies.
“However in recent years, we have heard that many Post Offices especially rural ones are facing closure, yet there are many other services that could be added to ensure that these remain open.
“Services such as driving license renewal, vehicle tax renewal or other governmental services could be moved to make the Post Offices more viable.
“The report also highlights that older, poorer and other vulnerable consumers, who regularly use the post office, do not always have access to online services and would benefit most from greater access to government services at their local Post Office.
“I am calling on the Post Office to expand its full range of services to each and every branch across Northern Ireland and begin to look at a partnership with Executive Departments by offering more services that will also provide stability for small and rural Post Offices.
“Making the post office network the front office for government services could deliver benefits for both consumers and government.
“In this increasingly digital age post offices can help bridge the ‘digital divide’ between the government and consumers who cannot, or do not want to, access services online.
“This is particularly important in providing essential support for more vulnerable consumers and those without access to the internet.
“Findings highlight a golden opportunity for public bodies to work with post offices to improve access to services, support consumers and make the post office network more sustainable.
“The report recommends that the Executive take a strong lead in encouraging public sector organisations to identify services that could be delivered through the post office network.
“Providing government services through the post office network would be a major opportunity to offer a much greater reach for government and the greater convenience consumers want and need,” said Assemblyman Swann, who also served two terms as Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organisation.
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