I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 116 together. 108 and 116 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.
Government continues to provide significant business to An Post through the Department of Social Protection’s Social Welfare contract and National Treasury Management Agency business. Government efforts have been focussed on supporting An Post in the roll out of new services and the delivery of its strategic plan. An Post, has been growing its financial services as a key part of its business strategy, building on the significant savings business it has in partnership with the NTMA, its market-leading position in foreign exchange and existing current account, credit card and consumer lending customer base.
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 has faith in the ability of An Post and the postmasters to deliver on that renewal process.
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. Government recently approved the Report on the Provision of Offline Government Services and the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Group, co-chaired by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to, inter alia, examine the feasibility of directing more Government business to the post office network. The Group has met twice with a further meeting scheduled in early June and will report back to Government by the end of July.
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.