An Post claims Government has neglected it in plan for rural renewal

Postal deliveries in Dublin city will be made using electric vehicles by year-end, committee told

An Post says  the optimum number of post offices was 850-900 below the current total of 953. Photograph: iStock

An Post says the optimum number of post offices was 850-900 below the current total of 953. Photograph: iStock

 

An Post has transformed itself from a rapidly declining, loss-making entity, into a growing, profitable business with a future in financial services, the company has told the Oireachtas Committee on Communications.

An Post chief executive David McRedmond said, while the company had been successful in all the changes the Government required of it, the one “real disappointment” was in support for the post office network from the Government itself.

Mr McRedmond appeared before TDs and Senators on Tuesday to answer questions on the decision to close An Post’s mail centre at Little Island, Co Cork with the loss of more than 200 jobs.

He told the committee An Post made “a strong return to commerciality” with operating profit at €41m last year, up from €8m in 2017, and revenue up 7 per cent to €897m. He said 2018 was the second year of profit after a loss of €12.4m in 2016.

But he warned that mail volumes continued to decline by up to 10 per cent each year, requiring the company to find €40 million annually in replacement revenue.

He said when An Post restructured there had been an understanding that the Government would play its part in supporting the company to be a “a core active element of Government’s strategy for the renewal of rural Ireland”.

Examples of a shared commitment to rural Ireland could include services such as drivers’ licences, car tax and digital identification “all being available in every community”, he said. The aim was not just to support An Post but to “strengthen the roll-out of e-government by ensuring every citizen can access services even in areas awaiting broadband rollout”.

Debbie Byrne, managing director An Post Retail, said since the closure of 152 post offices more than 60 percent of remaining branches were enjoying double digit growth and the company was working with the remainder. She said the optimum number of post offices was 850-900 and, while this was less than the current 953, there were “no active plans” to close further branches.

She said An Post’s shared ventures in current accounts and credit cards had been very successful and further financial services including commercial lending and mortgages were planned.

Garreth Bridgeman, managing director of An Post parcels and mails service, said the company was transforming its delivery vehicles to run on electricity and hoped to be the first national postal service to use an electric truck in the near future.

He said An Post also wanted to have vehicle charging services for its customers at its branch network. All deliveries between the Dublin canal cordon would be made using electric vehicles by the end of this year and vehicles in Cork would be electric from next year, with activities in regional cities following suit.

Responding to questions from members Mr McRedmond said Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had been informed “the same evening” as the announcement of the closure of the Cork mails centre. He said both Cork TDs had expressed their opposition to the move but it had been recommended strongly by the company’s business consultants.