§ Mr. Timms
Post Office Ltd. (POL) reports on the urban reinvention programme on a quarterly basis. As at the end of December 2003694 offices had closed under the programme (with payments to sub-postmasters totalling £38,111,410);46 proposals had been withdrawn or delayed for reworking during the advance notification process agreed with the consumer body Postwatch;a further 66 proposals had been withdrawn or amended as a result of the public consultation. POL had approved 388 applications totalling £1.3 million for investment grants to modernise remaining post offices.
Regarding the rural subsidy, which I announced on 2 December 2003, this is in place and is being drawn down by Post Office Ltd. to underpin its obligation to maintain the rural network and prevent avoidable closures. £450 million has been made available over three years (2003–04, 2004–05 and 2006). This funding is having the desired impact with rural closures much reduced; the lowest number since 1994–95. There were 115 net closures in the financial year 2002–03