A Joint Oireachtas Committee is recommending that Post Office services be broadened to ensure the viability of the 1,150 branches across the country.

Members of the Transport and Communications Committee are proposing that a range of Government services including motor tax renewals, hospital charges, water charges, property tax and business rates should be payable at Post Office branches.

The report, which was launched this afternoon, is based on a series of public consultations and committee hearings with interested parties.

Noting the importance of the post office network for social inclusion, and the potential loss of social welfare and NTMA contracts due to the State's public procurement requirements, the committee recommends that An Post introduce an “amber light” warning system to alert communities to the possible closure of their post offices.

Another of the committee's recommendations is that the network be used to deliver “a basic payment account as part of the financial inclusion strategy”.

It also suggests that An Post consider lodgement and withdrawal services for credit unions and banks.

Broadly welcoming the report, The Irish Postmasters Union said it particularly welcomed the conclusion that the loss of the Social Welfare and possibly the NTMA contracts would put the Post Office network under pressure.

The IPU estimates that 400 post offices would close if they lost the Social Welfare contract.

The IPU also expressed concern that the report will end up “gathering dust” but was assured by the Committee Chair Tom Hayes that it would be forwarded to the Minister for Communications as soon as possible.