An Post forced to play down clo­sures

Com­pany rows back on CEO’s fig­ure of 400 shut of­fices

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Claire Gor­man, James Ward and Faye White news@dai­ly­

AN Post was forced last night to play down sug­ges­tions by its own boss that as many as 400 post of­fices could close over the next four years.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day CEO of An Post David McRed­mond pre­dicted that in the longer term the net­work could be­tween ‘700 to 900’.

There are cur­rently 1,116 post of­fices in the coun­try, 50 of which are run di­rectly by An Post.

How­ever the or­gan­i­sa­tion last night in­sisted there is ‘no de­ci­sion’ on the fi­nal number of branches which will close.

‘There is no sug­ges­tion of 400 Post Of­fices clos­ing. There is no de­ci­sion on fi­nal num­bers or lo­ca­tions.

How­ever, An Post’s head of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­firmed to the Ir­ish Daily Mail last night that cost-cut­ting will hap­pen go­ing for­ward, say­ing: ‘We have to get costs un­der con­trol and ac­cept the re­al­i­ties of the mod­ern re­tail busi­ness, pop­u­la­tion shifts and the dig­i­tal world.’

Ear­lier, CEO Mr McRed­mond sparked fears of hun­dreds of clo­sures when he told RTÉ’s Radio 1: ‘What I’m say­ing is, post of­fices will in­evitably close – every­body knows that. Peo­ple in pop­u­la­tions have moved. There are post of­fices with no cus­tomers and in­evitably it’s very hard for those post­mas­ters to stay open.

‘Will it be 800 [stay­ing open]? Will it be 900? I can’t say for sure. I would guess it would be some­where within that re­gion of maybe 700 to 900. I think that’s what the number will be. It could be fewer. Who’s say­ing they’re go­ing to close? There’s a pos­si­bil­ity of any­thing hap­pen­ing in the coun­try over the next four years. What we’re guar­an­tee­ing is that there’ll be at least that number.’

Mr McRed­mond said the de­ci­sion to keep post of­fices open de­pends on post­mas­ters as he pledged to keep post of­fices in com­mu­ni­ties of more than 500 peo­ple. ‘We’ll also make sure that we have post of­fices on all the is­lands, and we’ll make sure that every­body is within rea­son­able dis­tance of a post of­fice. I can’t say what that to­tal will be. I can’t say what it’s go­ing to be in four years’ time,’ he said.

‘We get calls from post­mas­ters all the time who are say­ing that their busi­ness is gone away from their post of­fice, but there’s big­ger post of­fices nearby who are pick­ing up that busi­ness and they’ll likely close. We know that there’s many of­fices in that po­si­tion.

Gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Ir­ish Post­mas­ters’ Union Ned O’Hara re­fused to com­ment on post of­fice clo­sures un­til af­ter the group holds an emer­gency gen­eral meet­ing to­mor­row. Mem­bers will de­cide what course of ac­tion will be taken, but Mr O’Hara ruled out strike ac­tion.

‘The is­sues are that post­mas­ters’ earn­ings are con­tin­u­ally re­duced. Bobby Kerr was com­mis­sioned by the Gov­ern­ment two years ago to do a re­port and it’s sit­ting on a shelf since last De­cem­ber,’ he said.

He added: ‘There are a range of gov­ern­ment ser­vices which Bobby Kerr said should be made avail­able in post of­fices but they’re not. Post of­fices can’t just de­cide what’s made avail­able – it’s up to the Gov­ern­ment and An Post to al­low us to sell the ser­vices. A lot of for­got­ten peo­ple use the post of­fice – 1.7mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery week. They’re not the fashionable or the “in” crowd. They’re not jump­ing up and down and they’re just be­ing for­got­ten about, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral Ire­land where ser­vices are with­drawn and there’s no bus ser­vice or Garda sta­tion. ’

Séa­mus Boland, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ir­ish Ru­ral Link, said some peo­ple rely heav­ily on their lo­cal branch. He said of the clo­sures: ‘To us it’s no great big surprise. Those num­bers have been rat­tled around for a number of years. Our prob­lem with it is we’ve still failed to ex­am­ine the fu­ture of post of­fices in any sus­tain­able way. The clo­sures will af­fect older peo­ple, ru­ral peo­ple. It looks like they’re go­ing to close the ru­ral ones.’

Justin Mo­ran, Age Ac­tion Ire­land spokesman, added: ‘We’d be re­ally dis­ap­pointed if th­ese plans that are be­ing re­ported in the me­dia were to come to fruition. Older peo­ple de­pend on the post of­fice, it’s an es­sen­tial part of their lives and in many parts of the coun­try it’s the main com­mu­nity hub.’

When asked when the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Kerr Re­port would be im­ple­mented, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten said a strate­gic re­view of An Post was near­ing com­ple­tion. ‘The out­come of the re­view will im­pact on the ex­tent to which the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port can be im­ple­mented,’ he said.

He added that the Gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to a sus­tain­able post of­fice net­work.

Fianna Fáil’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion spokesman Timmy Doo­ley de­manded that the Gov­ern­ment do ev­ery­thing it can to main­tain as many post of­fices as pos­si­ble.

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