I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 48 together.
The Programme for Government recognises that a modernised post office network will provide a better range of financial services and e-commerce services for citizens and enterprise, as part of our commitment to a sustainable nationwide post office network.
The Department of Finance published a report on the Evaluation of Concept of Community Banking in Ireland by Indecon Consultants in December 2019. This followed on from the publication of a previous report by the Department of Finance on Local Public Banking in July 2018. The further report concluded that there is no business case for the State to establish a public banking system in Ireland.
An Post is transforming its retail network by delivering new products and new formats. This includes, among other things, diversifying and growing the financial services products it provides for individuals and SMEs to include loans, credit cards and more foreign exchange products, local banking in association with the major banks and a full range of State Savings products. Two new dedicated sub-brands, An Post Money and a new business-to-business brand, An Post Commerce, were launched. Investment by An Post of €50 million in the network is designed to encourage communities to use the enhanced services in their local post office.
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.
A lot of work has been done over the past few years to develop the network and this has had a positive effect for both postmasters and customers. This momentum needs to be maintained and if An Post, the postmasters and Government work together we can ensure that the network can emerge as a central hub for a wide variety of valuable community-focused services.
Government believes An Post has untapped potential to do more and make a further significant contribution across many areas of public, business and community life in Ireland. I intend to set out a series of next steps on the Offline Services Report shortly.
What we are doing now is working with An Post to investigate the scope to channel additional services through the network. As with any business the post office needs to develop commercial strategies to enable it to grow and maintain its relevance for its users. All options will be considered fully and efforts will be redoubled to give effect to our commitment to ensuring a sustainable and viable post office network.
An Post has recently submitted a new draft Strategy for analysis and consideration by the shareholding Ministers in line with the requirements set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. In this regard I recently met with the CEO of An Post on the matter. I will be providing my views on the draft Strategy in due course but final responsibility for the content of the plan, including commercial strategies therein, rests with the Board of An Post.