Thursday, 10 March 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
35. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has met the Irish Postmasters’ Union since he became Minister; if he will comment on the valuable proposals of the union to maintain the important rural postal service and especially the need to fully computerise the rural post office network; the need for full transparency from An Post management in regard to social welfare and other contracts; the need for the State to fund the public service obligation of the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8193/05]
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. N. Dempsey): On 15 November last, I met with the executive of the Irish Postmasters’ Union which represents postmasters and postmistresses who are responsible for the running of the sub-post office network on a contract basis. I outlined to them my commitment, and that of the Government, to the retention of a viable and sustainable post office network meeting the needs of customers with attractive products and services. I listened with interest to their views and proposals in regard to the development of the network.
Areas discussed included financial issues affecting rural post offices, as well as computerisation and business development for post offices. I was pleased to hear that they are keen to enhance the range of products and services available through the network. For my part, I encouraged the union to work closely with An Post to continue the development process.
The primary responsibility for the development of the post office network remains with An Post, and while the Government will support the network in any way it can and has demonstrated its commitment in a tangible fashion with a €12.7 million capital injection in 2003, the way forward is for all stakeholders, including the IPU, to continue to work with An Post in enhancing existing services and to build on existing strengths to develop new product offerings.
An Post is a commercial State body. The contracts between the company and the Department of Social and Family Affairs and other bodies, are commercial contracts and, therefore, are a matter for the management of An Post.
On the matter of the automation of the network which was completed in 1997, it has only been in very exceptional circumstances — such as an existing automated office closing and its equipment being transferred to a suitable neighbouring location which transacts significant volumes of welfare business — that further offices have been automated. Nevertheless, An Post will undertake a pilot project to automate a selected number of non-automated offices to gauge the effect on new business.
Finally, in regard to the imposition of a public service obligation, in addition to the Government injection of €12.7 million in 2003, the network also benefits from significant contracts with the Department of Social and Family Affairs for social welfare payments, and the National Treasury Management Agency for Government savings products. It is not envisaged at this stage that public funding will be provided to An Post to meet its universal service obligations.
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