Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Post Office Network
150. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on a report (details supplied); when it is intended to implement the recommendations of the report; the engagement he has had with an organisation in relation to the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35138/20]
156. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on a report (details supplied) on the post office network which highlighted the annual projected shortfall of €17 million from 2021 onwards; his further views on the steps being taken to save the post office network; his views on the importance of the post office network to rural areas; his further views on the effect the closure of more post offices would have on the areas affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34099/20]
223. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the plans that have been given consideration following the call from postmasters for clarity on the future of post offices; the planned actions to support the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35190/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 156, 155, 217, 150 and 223 together.
The importance of the post office network has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic where we have seen a range of initiatives through our post offices which have helped support local communities, the elderly and vulnerable.
The serious decline in the volume of mail and the impact of Covid on footfall through post offices, has had a severe impact on the postal network and I am aware of the concerns of the Irish Postmasters Union. I am also aware of the findings of the Grant Thornton Report commissioned by the IPU, which are being considered by my Department. I am meeting with the IPU in the coming weeks to discuss the matters raised.
While it is longstanding Government policy that postal services will not be directly subsidised by the Government, we remain fully committed to a sustainable post office network as a key component of the economic and social infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.
The Programme for Government recognises that a modernised post office network will provide a better range of financial services and e-commerce services for citizens and enterprise, as part of our commitment to a sustainable nationwide post office network.
An Post put in place a Strategic Plan, covering the period 2017 – 2021, in response to the structural challenges faced by the postal sector.
In order to implement the Plan, the cost of which was estimated to be in the region of €150m, the Minister for Finance provided a loan of €30m to the company in December 2017 to support the renewal of the post office network (€15m) and the continued fulfilment of a 5 day per week mails delivery service (€15m).
As part of the delivery of the plan the company was split into two distinct business units, An Post Mails and Parcels and An Post Retail.
An Post is transforming its retail network by delivering new products and new formats. This includes, among other things, diversifying and growing the financial services products it provides for individuals and SMEs to include loans, credit cards and more foreign exchange products, local banking in association with the major banks and a full range of State Savings products. Two new dedicated sub-brands, An Post Money and a new business-to-business brand, An Post Commerce, were launched. Investment by An Post of €50 million in the network is about getting communities to use the enhanced services in their local post office.
Government believes An Post has untapped potential to do more and make a further significant contribution across many areas of public, business and community life in Ireland. With an evolving mandate An Post can emerge as a central hub for a wide variety of valuable community focused services. We will work closely with An Post to see if there is scope to channel additional services through the network. All options will be considered fully and efforts will be redoubled to give effect to our commitment to ensuring a sustainable and viable post office network.