Pauwell: No radical post office closures this yearThursday, April 23, 2015
PORTFOLIO minister for the postal service, Phillip Paulwell says no decision has been made to cut the number of post offices and agencies across the island, even though Postmaster General Michael Gentles has indicated the urgency of rationalisation to stem mounting losses.
Gentles told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Tuesday that up to 60 per cent of the current 551 facilities would have to be closed.
But speaking at a Jamaica House press briefing on Wednesday, Paulwell said extensive consultations were necessary with all stakeholders, including members of parliament and residents from the communities that would be affected. "We are very conscious of those persons who depend on the post office now. So whatever we do we have to make sure that we cater to those needs. We expect that, shortly, Cabinet will be properly briefed, and a decision taken," he said.
Paulwell said, despite the $500-million deficit that the service has racked up for the past five years, it would not be wise to rush into a decision, which could cause "unnecessary dislocation".
"He was expressing his view, and the view of the board, and I won't kill him for that. They understand that it has to come to me and Cabinet," the minister said of the impression given by the postmaster general that the closures could be imminent.
"The post offices really have been struggling financially. The issue is that the present network which we have is unsustainable, and the reality is that there is going to have to be a drastic reduction in our network, in the region of 60 per cent," Gentles had indicated to the PAC.
He said this many postal points were not necessary and could not be sustained, but also pointed out that the relevant consultations had to be done before any changes were effected.
Asked why the ministry had still made an allocation in the budget this year despite plans to rationalise the service, Pauwell explained that no radical changes were expected before the next financial year, and that the post offices that have been identified are among those that would most likely remain, but are in need of repairs.