Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Questions (53)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

53. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific measures the Government is taking to maintain the post office network; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32063/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

The postal sector is undergoing significant change both nationally and internationally, with the increased use of electronic communications leading to a decline in core mail volume for An Post. In recent years, there has also been a decline in Department of Social Protection payments and a reduction in Billpay transactions at post offices.

The Government is committed to working with all stakeholders to find solutions to the sustainability of the post office network in this changed business environment. The Post Office Network Business Development Group was established in late 2014 to examine the potential for the delivery of additional Government services through the post offices and to identify new business opportunities for the network.

The Group published its report in January of this year and, amongst its conclusions, recommended that An Post should review and amend the five-year strategy for the post office network, following appropriate consultation with postmasters and other stakeholders.

Two further Working Groups were also established this year to progress the wider recommendations of the Business Development Group. The Post Office Network Implementation Group has been examining issues such as the number and spatial distribution of Post Offices, branch modernisation, the streamlining of products and services, postmaster payments and contracts, and training and qualifications for post office employees. The Implementation Group is nearing the conclusion of its work and its recommendations will be issued to the Board and management of An Post in the next few weeks. It will be a matter for An Post, as a commercial State company, to consider these recommendations and to bring their proposals to the appropriate Government Ministers for discussion.

Separately, I established the Post Office Hub Working Group to identify potential models under which the post offices could act as community hubs, especially in rural areas. This Group has recently concluded its deliberations and is finalising its report. In addition, my officials have also been examining the potential for the post offices to deliver other services, including motor tax and financial services.

I intend to report to Government on these matters in the coming weeks.