The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, and the Minister of State with responsibility for Postal Matters, Hildegarde Naughton, today announced a funding package of €30 million over a 3-year fixed period to support a sustainable, nationwide post office network.
Ministers Ryan and Naughton brought a memo outlining the funding package to Cabinet yesterday. Through this measure, the government recognises the importance of a high-value and high-quality Post Office network to citizens throughout Ireland, as well as the central and trusted role of postmasters in our communities.
Speaking from the post office in Stillorgan, Dublin, where details of the scheme were announced, Minister Hildegarde Naughton, who has special responsibility for Postal Matters, said:
"Post offices are a vital part of our community; a fact clearly evident in the monthly footfall of over one million visitors to post offices. Post offices play a central role to both society as a whole and to Government through the provision of high-quality public services in towns, villages and cities right across the country. I am confident that this €30 million multi-annual scheme, amounting to €10 million each year for three years, will protect our post office network and will ensure that families and businesses nationwide can continue to access services from within their own communities.
"Today’s announcement is a first-time move in the history of Government, where we are now providing direct financial support to postmasters who operate much of our network. It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to commend the work of postmasters and post office workers throughout what were incredibly challenging times during the height of COVID-19; indeed, they have brought a whole new meaning to the term public service."
Concluding, Minister Naughton said:
"A modernised post office network will provide a better and wider range of community banking and e-commerce services – for citizens and businesses. Through this measure we are underlining our commitment to a sustainable, nationwide post office network. The duration of the support package – a 3-year period – will provide certainty for postmasters and the public, enabling new commercial initiatives and services to be developed. Our aim is to protect and nurture a sustainable and commercially focussed post office network."
Commenting on the measure, Minister Ryan said:
"The post office has a central role in the social fabric of this country, in urban communities, and particularly in rural Ireland. This package will provide a one-off intervention of €10 million a year over a three-year period (2023-2025 inclusive) – to support a sustainable post office network in line with our commitments in the Programme for Government. This measure will help to ensure that people can continue to have access to important services through the post office network. It also underpins the government’s commitment to a network that is sufficient in scale and capacity for people to be able to access these services, no matter where they live."
A sustainable, nationwide post office network
An Post provides important services to its customers and key government services to citizens. The 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.
The measure announced today will support the existing network of approximately 900 post offices. 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.
Notes to the Editor
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.
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.