The Deputy can take that up with him.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has responsibility for the postal sector, including the governance of An Post. However, it is important to remember that An Post is a commercial State body with its own board. Decisions relating to the post office network are an operational matter for An Post directly.
The environment in which the post office operates is changing and the network needs to change with it in order to thrive, particularly given the move to digital transactions. These changes are impacting on the revenue being generated by the network as a whole. In the face of serious declines in the volume of mail and post office business, An Post faced growing losses and has had to undertake a major restructuring of its business to continue to be able to provide its services. There is a widespread acceptance that the post office network requires modernisation to build, maintain and protect a service that meets the needs of communities across the country.
An Post's renewed vision for the post office network centres on the availability of new services in a modernised, revitalised network. In this context, An Post has confirmed its move to a new flagship post office in the Thurles shopping centre and the closure of its Liberty Square premises. The move comes as part of An Post's effort to transform the post office network and to invest in improved facilities for customers in locations with high footfalls. Thurles will become one of the first towns in the country to host the new post office design, which is intended to improve the service offering for post office users and attract a new generation of customers.
It is important to acknowledge that the move has understandably caused upset in Thurles, as the post office has been in situ in Liberty Square for many years and is part of the fabric of the square.
However, delivery of An Post’s ambitious plans for the post office network requires renewal of the physical infrastructure of the network and the move is part of this process. I understand that the CEO of An Post and company officials have met with Deputies and local representatives in recent weeks to hear the perspective of the local community and to discuss the issues raised due to the relocation of the post office from Liberty Square to Thurles Shopping Centre. An Post has advised that the new office will be in line with the company’s transformation programme, offering a new-look retail offering for customers, with a move away from old-style post office counter layout. This is driven by An Post’s move to offer new services and products, including financial services, to customers, and integrating its growing e-commerce business. The new layout will include dedicated customer areas, parcel lockers and self-service options. An Post has also indicated that any plan to revamp the Liberty Square premises would be hampered by the condition of the three-storey listed building, the lack of available development space and the prohibitive cost of overcoming either of these obstacles. Furthermore, the building has been the subject of repeated complaints over accessibility and excessive queuing caused by the lack of space in the office. Given the challenges it is facing, the company needs to pursue an ambitious agenda across its various business areas, and significant change and new business models are likely to be implemented in the coming years.
The willingness of the public to use the service the post office provides is essential for the survival of the network. Investment of €50 million in the network by An Post is based on encouraging communities to use the enhanced services that their local post office will provide through a modernised network. The company is continuing to make good progress in implementing its strategic plan, which will see a range of developments across the mail and retail businesses. A refreshed and modernised An Post brand was launched in recent weeks, alongside a new financial services proposition, An Post Money, and a new business-to-business brand, An Post eCommerce Solutions. It is Government policy that An Post remains a strong, viable company in a position to provide a high-quality, nationwide postal service and that it maintains a nationwide customer focused network of post offices in the community. The Government remains fully committed to a sustainable post office network, which is an important piece of economic and social infrastructure for both rural and urban areas.