I propose to take Question Nos. 76, 100 and 156 together.
An Post is a commercial State body with a mandate to act commercially. It has statutory responsibility for the State’s postal service and the post office network. Decisions relating to the network, including those in relation to the size, distribution and future of the network are operational matters for the Board and management of the company.
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. As with any business the post office needs to develop commercial strategies to enable it to grow and maintain its relevance for its users.
A Capital Expenditure programme was approved at Ministerial level which, as part of the Company’s commitment to the sustainability of its network, is designed to develop the newer elements of An Post’s Financial Services business and mitigate declining core mail volumes and revenues on the Retail side of the business. €30m in State funding was made available to the company, of which €15 million is to support the renewal of the post office network and a further €15 million towards the continued fulfilment of a five-day per week mail delivery service.
Government is committed to working with An Post and postmasters to ensure that the network continues to play a strong role in delivering State services. An Inter-Departmental Group, co-chaired by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has been established to, inter alia, examine the feasibility of directing more Government business to the post office network.
All options will be considered fully to give effect to our commitment to ensuring a sustainable and viable post office network, while respecting the commercial mandate of An Post.