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01/18/2017 12:00:00 AM


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Fitzpatrick, Peter

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Second Stage

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage
Bills\Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Second Stage

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Senator


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Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick

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Peter Fitzpatrick

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Snippet Contents:

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. The main purpose of the Bill is to repeal the price cap mechanism currently in place for universal postal services which in turn will give An Post increased flexibility in its pricing.
There is no doubt that the post office network is facing huge challenges. One of these challenges is the fact that An Post is losing money and in the past seven years has incurred losses of €340 million. These losses are unsustainable and action needs to be taken to ensure the postal service has a viable and sustainable future.
In its assessment of the company, ComReg has established that An Post did not meet its efficiency targets of 2% per annum. Also, it did not price to the maximum allowed under the existing price cap. In addition, ComReg stated An Post was unlikely to break even on the services it provided that were subject to the price cap. With this in mind it is important that measures are now taken to ensure the postal network is protected and legislation is put in place to underpin its future.
Post Offices are an integral part of Irish society and must be fully protected in order that their future can be secured. I am mindful of the fact that An Post is operating at a financial loss and this must be addressed.
I read the Grant Thornton report which was published in 2012. It identified three main revenue streams for An Post - traditional mail services, Government contracts and financial services. It also identified potential future services that An Post could provide, including motor taxation, an extension of the banking services currently available, household charges, local authority charges and hospital charges.
It is interesting to note that the report also highlighted what were identified as future opportunities for An Post, including a restructuring of local government, additional Government charges, an ability to extend business in terms of capability and infrastructure, increased community interaction and technology related solutions including tracking, digital displays and phone applications.
Banks are facing cost pressures and seeking alternative solutions, while An Post has the required capacity to expand. Whilst highlighting the challenges faced by An Post, the Grant Thornton report also emphasised that An Post has a viable future.
Another report I want to highlight is the Kerr report which was published in January 2016. That report came about as a result of the establishment of the Post Office Network Business Development Group in January 2015 with a mandate to produce a report that would explore potential commercial opportunities available to the postal network. The report was developed following an extensive consultation process where the group engaged with a variety of stakeholders including those in the public sector, commercial bodies, post office customers and other interested parties. The report identified the principal activities that currently underpin the postal network including processing social welfare payments, processing State savings products, bill-pay transactions for electricity, gas, telephone and waste, licence collections on behalf of public bodies, money transmission services, agency banking transactions on behalf of retail banks, foreign exchange services, postal services and gift vouchers. The report clearly recognised the value and importance of the post office network as a key piece of rural infrastructure that could revitalise rural communities. I strongly agree with that view. As I stated, the post office network is an integral part of Irish society. It must be protected and made sustainable.
With regard to safeguarding the future of An Post, the Kerr report identified 23 recommendations that it considers would be central to the future sustainability of the network. In my constituency of Louth and in Meath East there are many rural areas that depend heavily on their local post offices, including Ardee, Louth village, Dunleer and Carlingford, to name just a few.
The Kerr report clearly identified that the network needs to be renewed and modernised. It also recommended that the Government and An Post agree a business model to facilitate the introduction by An Post of payment accounts for social welfare clients.