€30 million confirmed to support a sustainable, nationwide Post Office network
Today, I'm happy to confirm the cabinet decision that €10m per annum is to be provided over a three-year fixed term 2023 – 2025, to An Post to support a sustainable, nationwide Post Office network.
This funding is in line with the Programme for Government and with our Town Centre First and Rural development policies. As a rural representative, I see it as vital that our Post Offices are recognised as valuable parts of the social fabric in towns and villages as well as acknowledgement of the central and trusted role played by postmasters in our communities.
This funding marks the first time in the history that the Government is providing direct financial support to post masters who operate much of our network and cater for a footfall of over one million visitors per month. I’m confident that this measure will provide certainty for postmasters and the public.
With the recent exit of major banks from the Irish market, this measure will ensure that financial services remain accessible at a local level and that there is a network of sufficient scale in place for the public to access these services across the country.
The intervention will support the existing network of c.900 Post Offices and will provide the necessary time for new commercial initiatives and services to develop. In particular, the aim is to safeguard the most vulnerable post offices – to protect access to services across the country.
Funding will be disbursed, to ensure a balance between providing vital financial support and certainty, while at the same time maintaining a commercial focus. Monies will be distributed between a fixed/guaranteed element and a variable, performance-based element, which will be determined following consultation between An Post and the IPU (Irish Postmasters Union) and approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Exact details relating to the disbursal of funds will be released in due course, subsequent to these consultations
An Post is a commercial State body with a mandate to act commercially. It has statutory responsibility for the State’s postal service and for the post office network.
Postmasters are independent business owners contracted by An Post to run post offices across Ireland. Most post offices are operated by independent postmasters. Postmasters are not State employees, nor are they employees of An Post and, as such, they are not paid a fixed salary. Their income is derived on a fee per transaction basis.
The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has committed under its Statement of Strategy to “support An Post in continuing to develop as a strong and dynamic commercial State company, delivering on its Strategic Plan which reflects Government objectives and delivers a sustainable nationwide post office network offering a range of eCommerce, financial and Government services”.
Existing support for postmasters and the Post Office network
A major transformation of An Post and the post office network is underway, in line with the company’s Strategic Plan. To implement the plan (the cost of which is estimated to be in the region of €150 million) the Government provided a long-term low-interest loan of €30 million to the company in December 2017 – to support and protect the renewal of the post office network (€15 million) and the continued fulfilment of a 5-day-per-week mail delivery service (€15 million). A report from the Inter-Departmental Group, which was established to examine the feasibility of additional Government services being provided through An Post and the post office network, will be published shortly.
An Post announced an €8.5 million pandemic relief fund in June 2021, which is benefitting all post offices over an 18-month period until the end of this year (2022).
Government commitment to a high-value and high-quality Post Office network
The Government’s Programme is clear – to ensure that we have a modernised post office network that will provide a range of financial and e-commerce services for citizens and enterprise, as part of the commitment to a sustainable nationwide post office network. The Government’s objectives for An Post include harnessing new opportunities presented by e-commerce and the digital economy, as well as capturing and retaining market share in parcels.
Postal and Telecommunications Act 1983
Today’s intervention will require an amendment to the Postal and Telecommunications Act 1983; approval for draft legislation will be sought in due course.