LOBBY groups in the north have cranked up their fight to ensure people can still renew their driving licences and pay vehicle tax in post offices.
A contract between the DVLA and central post office company - which earned £3 million last year for providing its services in the UK's 11.500 post offices - will expire on March 31 2024.
Removing face-to-face transactions are feared to have a negative impact on vulnerable and digitally excluded customers and force elderly motorists online to renew vital services.
And there is also fears for jobs across the north's 500 post offices, where more than 40,000 over-the-counter DVLA transactions take place every month - about half of which are transacted in cash.
But now the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) and Retail NI have united to demand the Government reverses its controversial decision.
“Post offices should be getting more government services, not less,” said Glyn Robert, chief executive at Retail NI.
“They are an invaluable footfall driver for our members, local high streets, and provide a vital community service, with total monthly customers estimated to be around 350,000 to 400,000.
“We urge the government to rethink this immediately and start investing in our local post offices.”
Jim McCafferty, NFSP's non-executive director for Northern Ireland, said: “The DVLA withdrawal is unfair to our customers, as many of them visit our branch purposefully to pay their car tax with cash - their preferred method of payment.
“This government decision to provide this service online only is to the detriment of communities across the country and further weakens the financial position of beleaguered sub-postmasters.
He added: “It appears the government has an undeclared strategy to close swathes of post office branches by stealth at no cost to themselves, leaving communities without a local post office.
“The removal of this vital over-the-counter service, purportedly lauded to save the taxpayers money, is clearly against the wishes of the public - and is also another nail in the coffin for cash.”
Postmaster Jim Moan, who owns Howard Street Post Office in Belfast, said: “The government promised us more work, not less. They are crippling the whole network of post offices, and my customers are not happy with it. We have to make a stand.”
The NFSP has set out a campaign to raise awareness of its campaign and has set up a petition to collect signatures.
And while it can be done online, the organisation is encouraging customers to go into their local post office and physically sign the petition, which NFSP will present to government and MPs on November 1, triggering a debate in Parliament.
A DVLA spokesperson said: “The Post Office currently provide a limited range of DVLA’s services and an extension to the current contract has recently been agreed until 31 March 2024.
“We want our customers to be able to access our services as quickly and as easily as possible, and the role of front office counter services will form part of the considerations of any future service offerings.”