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. 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 valuable services.
With post offices, An Post has agreed an exit arrangement where postmasters choose to retire. It has established a protocol which sets out how the company would facilitate the continued provision of post office services where this occurs. Its aim is to make as many post offices as possible viable. It takes account minimum service levels as well as a range of other issues. I understand that An Post has also set up an appeals mechanism. In the case of 45 of 51 appeals the independent reviewer upheld the decision of An Post. In five cases An Post reconsidered the decision and re-advertised the contract, while in one case the postmaster withdrew the resignation.
A key element of An Post's strategy is to develop new business lines. This includes parcel delivery, financial services that include personal loans, and more recently it has considered options relating to mortgages. It has also committed to extending its opening times. The Government is supporting An Post in the delivery of its €150 million transformation programme, and the Government provided a €30 million loan to An Post to support the renewal of the post office network and the continued fulfilment of the five day per week delivery service. Government funding has also been allocated to a new so-called Digital Assist scheme being piloted in ten post offices, where post offices are kitted out to help citizens engage with Government services online. We are also looking at options to deliver Government services to those citizens who do not want to use or are unable to use services online. The findings of this work may be of use to An Post in the longer term.
An Post continues to experience very significant declines in mail volumes and its traditional retail business, yet it has managed to strengthen its financial performance significantly and maintain a network of 960 post offices and 1,600 post points.