Written Answers. - Postal Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

122 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has raised or plans to raise with An Post, its proposal to end door to door deliveries in rural areas, in view of the implications for rural life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3670/03]

I have not raised directly with An Post its proposal to end door to door deliveries in rural areas. However, I recently conveyed my views to the postal regulator in response to the consultation paper on the regulation of the postal services. In my view, the definition of "public road" should be expanded to include local improvement scheme-repaired roads that are tarred at public expense but often are not taken in charge for maintenance by the local authorities.

As regards An Post's programme to persuade rural residents to use roadside letterboxes by mutual agreement, I would underline the need to implement such a policy in a sensitive manner taking account of the needs of vulnerable rural residents, for example disabled and older people, many of whom live alone. As regards the latter category, it will be recalled that the security scheme for the elderly was introduced some years ago in response to attacks on vulnerable older people mainly in isolated rural communities. The scheme continues to meet an ongoing demand, highlighting the need for state services to adopt as far as practicable an integrated approach to the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

Accordingly I believe that people over 65 years of age or people with disabilities should not be required to use roadside letterboxes. I agree that three kilometres, as proposed, is a reasonable maximum distance that a person would have to travel in a rural area to post a letter in a standard envelope. I am pleased to note the proposed guarantee in the consultation paper of daily deliveries to rural dwellers.