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Mr. Atkins: Over the last 18 months, officials of the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office have held informal discussions with the major bodies concerned with common land. Those discussions confirmed the Government's view that there was a need to investigate practical ways in which improvements in both the registration process and the management of common land might be achieved. Officials have since been looking at what needs to be done to achieve those objectives, and I hope to report our conclusions to the House shortly.
Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much has been spent or grant aided, in each of the last three years for which figures are available, on the repair of eroded footpaths by the Countryside Commission for England.
Mr. Atkins: Repair of the surface of footpaths is the legal responsibility of the highway authority, the landowner or the occupier, depending on the cause of the damage to the path surface. The Countryside Commission does not contribute grant aid towards this statutory duty, except in the case of national trails.
In the last three years, the commission has spent the following on the surface restoration of trails:
Year |£ ------------------------------ 1991-92 |700,000 1992-93 |1,000,000 1993-94 |850,000
These sums were spent mainly on restoring paths crossing peat in upland area, particularly the Cleveland and Pennine ways.
Mr. Atkins: In 1993 94, the Countryside Commission conducted a sample public rights of way condition survey in England. Walkers found that only 14 out of 11,847 links--a section of path between two junctions-- surveyed were "impassable/unusable" on account of erosion. Some 103 links were "impassable/unusable" because they were muddy, boggy or flooded, but the causes for this will be varied. The full results of the survey are due to be published in the summer.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful bids for moneys from the single regeneration budget that exceeded in their submissions the recommended number of pages set out in the
Column 571Department's bidding guidance; and if he will specify (i) the numbers of pages and (ii) the length of any appendices.
Mr. Curry: Guidance on the preparation of bids for single regeneration budget funding was contained in annexe B of the SRB bidding guidance issued in April 1994, copies of which are in the Library of the House. Access to the 469 individual bids, plus supporting material, is available from the relevant Government office for the region. Copies of individual bids are available at a charge. Information about the numbers of pages and length of appendices of bids is not held centrally, and could be made available only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to require local authorities and other bodies submitting second round bids for moneys from the single regeneration budget to indicate the cost or preparing the submission, the number of staff allocated to its preparation and the number of person hours involved.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful bids for moneys from the single regeneration budget were (i) thematic in nature covering the entire area of the local authority and (ii) for a small area covering a discrete part of the local authority.
Mr. Curry: Guidance on the area coverage of bids for single regeneration budget resources was set out in paragraphs 15 to 25, annexe A and annexe B of the SRB bidding guidance issued in April 1994, copies of which are in the Library of the House. Information on the thematic coverage of bids by reference to geographical area is not held centrally. Of the 201 successful bids under the first bidding round, about 35 per cent. related to a small area--under 25, 000 population--about 29 per cent. related to a local authority district, about 19 per cent. related to an area greater than a local authority district, about 10 per cent were county-wide and about 7 per cent. were region-wide. These figures are subject to the final agreement of delivery plans between the individual SRB partnerships and the Government offices for the regions.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his reply of 25 January, Official Report, column 206, if he will list the five local authorities which made unsuccessful bids for single regeneration budget moneys and the relevant regional offices.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: The Government welcome the focus on the efficient delivery of cost-effective services which stems from the creation of an internal market for local authority services. From 1995 96, local authorities will be required to prepare and publish a statement of support service costs, setting out the full cost of support services. Making costs transparent through the framework of this statement will further stimulate the development of internal markets.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received regarding the non- collection of service charges on ex-local authority properties in Westminster.
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received concerning the future of local government in London; and what plans he has for a London-wide elected authority.
Sir Paul Beresford: Londoners' responses to the consultation paper "London: Making the Best Better", published in November 1993, showed little support for a London-wide elected authority. I am unaware of any formal representations made since then. The Government have no plans for an additional elected authority for London.
(2) if he will now make it his practice to give dates of the meetings of the Cabinet Sub-Committee.
Sir Paul Beresford: I do not propose to give details of the timing of meetings or the topics discussed by the Cabinet Sub-Committee for London. The Government will continue to make their decisions known to Parliament and the public in the usual ways.
Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of licensed premises have smoking free areas; and what studies his Department is conducting into the benefits of such areas.
Mr. Atkins: My Department has no information on the numbers of licensed premises with smoking free areas. The benefits of smoking-free areas in public places, including licensed premises, are outlined in the Government's code of practice on smoking in public places.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will announce the appointment of an inspector for the public inquiry into the proposed Nirex rock characterisation facility in Cumbria; and what the terms of reference will be for the public inquiry.
Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for each property type in Nottinghamshire the percentage increase in rateable values as a result of the 1995 revaluation compared with the 1990 list.
Column 574offices by 40 per cent., warehouses by 37 per cent., factories by 27 per cent., and other properties by 21 per cent.
Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will produce a table in the same form as provided to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) on 1 November 1994, Official Report, columns 1005 6, showing the increase in rate bills for properties in Nottinghamshire between 1994 95 and 1995 96 as a result of the 1995 revaluation, in the absence of transitional relief.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: Estimates for Nottinghamshire based on the draft 1995 rating lists are shown in the table. I have also given the change in bills once transitional relief has been taken into account.
Estimated increases or decrease in rate bills in England between 1994-95 and 1995-96 as a result of the 1995 revaluation in the absence of transitional relief-Nottinghamshire 1995-96 bill as a percentage of 1994-95 bill Small properties Large properties All |Change £ |Change £ |Change £ |Number (000s) |millions |Number (000s) |millions |Number (000s) |millions -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <50 per cent. |- |- |- |- |- |- 50 per cent.-80 per cent. |- |- |- |-1 |- |-1 80 per cent.-120 per cent. |6 |+1 |1 |+2 |7 |+3 120 per cent.-200 per cent. |16 |+16 |5 |+28 |21 |+43 200 per cent.-500 per cent |2 |+3 |-1 |+3 |2 |+6 >500 per cent. |-1 |-1 |-1 |+1 |-1 |+1 All |24 |+20 |6 |+33 |30 |+52 All (after transitional relief) |24 |+5 |6 |+10 |30 |+15 Source: Inland Revenue. Notes: 1. Totals may not sum due to rounding. 2. Small properties have a 1 April 1990 rateable value less than £10,000.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide estimates for the total amount that has been paid to N. M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. with respect to any work undertaken by it on privatisation programmes in which his Department has been engaged since 1979 after taking account of inflation.
Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many coastal or estuarial sewage discharges under construction or planned include treatment to reduce or eliminate viral content; (2) how many sewage discharges receive treatment to reduce or eliminate viruses; and what percentage that represents of the total coastal discharges.
Mr. Atkins: Sewage treatment which is at primary level or above will reduce the levels of viruses in discharges. The current and planned levels of treatment for sewage discharges into coastal and estuarial discharges under the urban waste water treatment directive are set out in the United Kingdom's report under article 17. A copy of this is in the Library of the House.
Copies of the full report have been placed in the Library.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what financial effect the inclusion of homelessness as an indicator has had on the grant settlement this year for (a) Coventry, (b) Wandsworth and (c) Westminster councils.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: There is no specific amount for homelessness within standard spending assessments. However, homelessness is one of a large number of general indicators that are included within composite
Column 575indices in the personal social services and all other services service blocks. They serve as an adjustment to increase or reduce the SSA, depending on the position of the authority relative to the average for all authorities. For the specified authorities, these homelessness indicators contribute the following adjustment:
|£ million ------------------------------------------------- Coventry City Council |-1,790 London Borough of Wandsworth |+1,684 Westminster City Council |+3,519
It is the overall value of an index which is important in determining an authority's SSA and not the value of an individual indicator within an index.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which 10 councils gained most in this year's grant distribution as a result of homelessness being a factor in the standard spending assessment system.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: There is no specific amount for homelessness within standard spending assessments. However, homelessness is one of a large number of general indicators that are included within composite indices in the personal social services and all other services service blocks. The 10 authorities which have the highest contribution from homelessness indicators are:
Birmingham City Council
Manchester City Council
London Borough of Lambeth
London Borough of Hackney
London Borough of Southwark
London Borough of Islington
London Borough of Walsall
Bradford City Council
London Borough of Haringey
London Borough of Westminster
It is the overall value of an index which is important in determining an authority's SSA and not the value of an individual indicator within an index.
Mr. Dobson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those authorities which have made oral representations to Ministers as part of the consultation on his proposals for local government finance for 1995 96, showing in each case the Minister seen by the authority, the duration of the meeting and the main topics raised.
Mr. Gummer: The table lists authorities which made oral representations to myself and other Ministers in my Department on the proposed local government finance settlement for England for 1995 96. In addition, Home Office Ministers met a number of police authorities. The main topics raised in meetings with DOE Ministers are listed in the table. No note was made of the duration of meetings, but I and other Ministers have sought to make time available for the fullest consultation.
Class of Authority |Minister |Main topics ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Shire Districts Barrow in Furness |Robert B. Jones |Benefits, | Remoteness Blackpool |Sir Paul Beresford |Data, rent | allowances, credit | approvals, capping Bristol |Sir Paul Beresford |Regional status, SSA | methodology Burnley |David Curry |Data, capping, | superannuation Castle Point |Robert B. Jones |Capping, Other | Services Dartford |Robert B. Jones |Growth pressures Halton |Robert B. Jones |Benefit case load Harlow |Sir Paul Beresford |Other Services | Block, debt, SSA | Reduction Grant, | capping Havant |Sir Paul Beresford |Population data, | commuters Hyndburn |Sir Paul Beresford |Capital financing, | capping, housing | benefit, Other | Services Ipswich |Sir Paul Beresford |Debt, data, capping Leicester |Robert B. Jones |Capping, SSA | Reduction Grant Milton Keynes |Robert B. Jones |Growth factors Norwich |Viscount Ullswater |Capping, regional | status Nottingham City |Sir Paul Beresford |SSA Reduction | Grant, external | support, data, SSA | methodology, | housing benefits Pendle |Robert B. Jones |Capping, housing | benefits Ribble Valley |Sir Paul Beresford |Other Services Block Rushmoor |Sir Paul Beresford |Area Cost | Adjustment, | population South Norfolk |Robert B. Jones |Other Services Block Stevenage |Sir Paul Beresford |Area Cost | Adjustment, New | Town status Thanet |David Curry |Housing benefit Thurrock |Viscount Ullswater |Debt, Area Cost | Adjustment Wear Valley |Sir Paul Beresford |Capital financing, | capping Welwyn Hatfield |Robert B. Jones |Capping, benefits, | other services York |Robert B. Jones |SSA Reduction | Grant, sparsity, | unemployment, | homelessness Shire counties Cumbria |David Curry |National parks, SSA | methodology, | Area Cost | Adjustment, fire Derbyshire |David Curry |Resource levels, | capping limits Devon |Robert B. Jones |Area Cost | Adjustment, | community care | education East Midlands |David Curry |Area Cost Counties |Adjustment, | capping, credit | controls Gloucestershire |David Curry |Education, capping, | Area Cost | Adjustment Hampshire |Robert B. Jones |Fire, Education, | Other Services, | Fire, Area Cost | Adjustment Hereford and |David Curry |Capping, SSA Worcester |methodology, | data, community | care Lancashire |David Curry |Area Cost | Adjustment, SSA | methodology Lincolnshire |David Curry |Capping, education, | Area Cost | Adjustment, | sparsity, fire Norfolk County |David Curry |Fire, Area Cost Council |Adjustment, | community care, | education, capping Northamptonshire |Secretary of State |Area Cost | Adjustment, | education, capping Northumberland |Viscount Ullswater |Sparsity, National | Parks, Area Cost | Adjustment, capping Nottinghamshire |David Curry |Area Cost | Adjustment, fire | capital financing Oxfordshire |Robert B. Jones |Area Cost | Adjustment, | Education, Fire, | new burdens Shropshire |David Curry |Area Cost | Adjustment, SSA | methodology, | balances South West Counties |David Curry |Data, community | care, teachers pay, | Area Cost | Adjustment Warwickshire |Robert B. Jones |Area Cost | Adjustment, Fire, | capping Metropolitan Districts Barnsley |Viscount Ullswater |Capping, education, | highways Birmingham |Secretary of State |Data, capping, Area | Cost Adjustment, | debt, credit | approvals Bolton |David Curry |Education, capping, | youth custody Bradford |David Curry |Education, capping Core Metropolitan |David Curry |Area Cost Cities | Adjustment, | Capital Financing, | SSA methodology, | capping Coventry |David Curry |Capping, community | care, capital | financing, Area | Cost Adjustment Kirklees |David Curry |Area Cost | Adjustment, | education Knowsley |Robert B. Jones |Population, SSA | methodology, | Area Cost | Adjustment Liverpool |David Curry |Capping, | deprivation, debt, | Area Cost | Adjustment Manchester |Secretary of State |SSA methodology, | capital financing Newcastle upon |David Curry |Education, social Tyne | services, Area | Cost adjustment, | capital finance Rotherham |Sir Paul Beresford |Capping, deprivation Salford |Robert B. Jones |Data, education Sandwell |Robert B. Jones |Deprivation, | capping, SSA | Education Grant Sheffield |Robert B. Jones |Area Cost | Adjustment, debt, | highways Solihull |Secretary of State |Recoupment in | education, levies, | capping South Tyneside |Robert B. Jones |Deprivation, Area | Cost Adjustment, | capping South Yorkshire |Viscount Ullswater |Supertram Districts St. Helens |Robert B. Jones |Capital financing, | area cost | adjustment, | education, | community care Tameside |Robert B. Jones |Area Cost | capping, levies Wigan |David Curry |Capping Wirral |David Curry |Capping Wolverhampton |David Curry |SSA methodology, | SSA Reduction | Grant London Boroughs Bexley |Robert B. Jones |Education, | community care, | pay, housing | benefit, Area Cost | Adjustment Brent |David Curry |SSA Reduction | Grant, education, | Area Cost | Adjustment Croydon |Robert B. Jones |Education, | community care, | benefit case load Enfield |David Curry |Deprivation Greenwich |Robert B. Jones |Pensions, highways, | social services, | other services Hackney |Robert B. Jones |SSA Reduction | Grant, data, | community charge | grant Harrow |Viscount Ullswater |Capping, capital | financing, | refugees, Area | Cost Adjustment Havering |Robert B. Jones |Capping, capital | receipts Hillingdon |Robert B. Jones |Education, refugees, | Area Cost | Adjustment Hounslow |David Curry |Education, refugees Kingston upon |Robert B. Jones |Area cost Thames | adjustment, | personal social | services, notional | amount Lambeth |David Curry |Capping, SSA | Reduction Grant Merton |David Curry |Education, SSA | methodology, | Area Cost | Adjustment Newham |Secretary of State |Resource levels, | capping Sutton |Robert B. Jones |Education, Social | Services, Area | Cost Adjustment. Fire Authorities Merseyside Fire and |David Curry |Fire Civil Defence South Yorkshire Fire |David Curry |Fire, pensions and CD Authority Tyne and Wear Fire |Sir Paul Beresford |Fire and Civil Defence West Midlands Fire |Sir Paul Beresford |Fire, Capping Authority West Yorkshire Fire |David Curry |Fire and Civil Defence Police Authorities Lancashire Police |David Curry |Pensions, Police Authority | Funding Formula Greater Manchester |Robert B. Jones |Pensions, Police Police | Funding Formula Northants Police |Sir Paul Beresford |Pensions, capping Authority Suffolk Police |Sir Paul Beresford |Police Funding | Formula West Mercia Police |David Curry |Police Funding Authority | Formula, | pensions, data, | capping Unitary Authority Isle of Wight |David Curry |Reorganisation, Fire, | Area Cost | Adjustment Local Authority Associations Consultative Council |Secretary of State |SSA Reduction on Local | David Curry | Grant, Capping Government | level of Finance, | Settlement, capital | financing 90 Meetings in total with local authority delegations
Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions Departmental officials met representatives of Ian Greer Associates (a) formally and (b) informally on 26 January to discuss matters relating to their client's interests.
Sir Paul Beresford: Central records are not kept of meetings between departmental officials and external organisations, and the information requested could not be collected without disproportionate cost.
Mr. Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what decision he has reached on proposals to allow local planning authorities to set their own planning application fees; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Paul Beresford: Last summer, we issued a consultation paper, "Planning Application Fees", which proposed giving local planning authorities the power to set their own fees for determining planning applications. Our intention was to enable authorities to recover the costs they incur in processing planning applications. We envisaged that fee increases would be subject to authorities meeting qualifying criteria--in relation to development plans and development control performance--and establishing, by 1996, an accounting system for identifying costs.
We received over 300 responses, all of which have been carefully considered. We have concluded that the particular package of proposals we put forward did not attract sufficient support to justify legislating now for the devolution of fee-setting responsibilities within the proposed time scale.
For the present, therefore, planning application fees will continue to be set centrally. However, we shall be giving further thought to refining the fees regime to see whether a better match can be achieved between the costs and price of the service provided by local planning authorities.
Mr. Congdon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in settling initial appeals against bandings for council tax in England; when he expects the remainder to be settled; and how quickly new appeals will be dealt with.
Mr. Curry: A year ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) announced that we expected the Valuation Office agency and the valuation tribunals to have settled four out of five of the initial council tax appeals in England by the end of 1994, Official Report, column 154.
By 31 December last, 704,888 appeals had been settled--81.5 per cent. of those received during the initial period. The great majority of cases were resolved through discussion between the agency and the taxpayer.
Progress was commendably consistent across the country. The settlement rate had reached or exceeded 80 per cent. in over three quarters of all billing authority areas; only in 16 areas was the rate less than 75 per cent. I have today placed in the Library a list showing the numbers and proportions of initial appeals resolved in each billing authority area.
This has been an impressive achievement on the part of the agency, which has had other major tasks to carry out at the same time, including a rating revaluation of all non-domestic properties. The valuation tribunals have also had an important part to play. In the event, relatively few appeals have needed a tribunal hearing to resolve, but the readiness of tribunals to list cases for timely hearings has been invaluable in keeping up the pace of settlements. Tribunal members receive no payment for their services,
Column 581and I am extremely grateful to them and, above all, to their chairmen and presidents for their preparedness to give up so much of their time to help deal with this exceptional case load.
Future progress is harder to predict, since the proportion of cases still outstanding that are likely to be resolved in discussion is lower than before. However, I very much hope that around 90 per cent. of initial appeals will have been settled by the end of March, and the remainder, or all but a handful, by the summer.
Appeals can still be made in certain circumstances, for example following a change of taxpayer or a material reduction in the value of the dwelling. Once the bulk of the initial appeals have been disposed of, we expect that any such new appeals will generally be settled within 12 months from the date of the taxpayer's proposal.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been with the plans for a waste strategy for England and Wales which he announced in July 1994 in response to the Royal Commission on environmental pollution report on incineration of waste.
Mr. Atkins: The Government are today issuing for public consultation a draft waste strategy for England and Wales. The strategy aims to use the principles of sustainable development to provide a coherent framework for waste management policy and practice throughout England and Wales. Copies of the document have been placed in the Library of the House.
However well managed, waste always has the potential to cause harm to the environment. We must give priority to reducing the amount we produce, and to adopting better waste management practices. Much can be done harnessing the power of the market to encourage more environmentally friendly waste management. The Chancellor's announcement in his Budget statement of the introduction of a landfill tax is one, very important, development in this direction. Industry can do a great deal, and has a good incentive to do so because, as a number of demonstration projects have shown, better waste management frequently results in reduced operating costs. Good waste management practice is a competitiveness opportunity. Householders also have a major role to play by choosing not to buy over-packaged goods, by reusing goods and materials within the household, and by using the recycling facilities provided by their local councils.
We hope that this draft strategy will start a wide debate about future aims and direction of waste management policy, and the role of industry, the public sector, consumers and householders in achieving those objectives. We are allowing an extended consultation period until 28 April 1995 to enable proper consideration of the many significant issues which the strategy raises.
Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the establishment of the agency to be derived from Property Holdings when Departments take responsibility in 1996.
Column 582Property Holdings is to be replaced by a new next steps agency, Official Report , column 225 . The agency to be established from 1 April 1996, will be known as Property Advisers to the Civil Estate--PACE. It will be responsible for co-ordinating the Government's market activity on the civil estate; for promoting its rationalisation; and for providing Departments with advice and support in the management of their estates. It will be organised in accordance with the principles set out in the civil service White Paper--Cm 2627--with a flexible and non-hierarchical management structure, and with responsibility devolved to the lowest possible level. Its chief executive will be Mr. Neil Borrett, who has been director of Property Holdings since 1990. It will have a complement of about 200 staff, spread between six regional offices in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol, through which it will help keep in close touch with developments in local property markets.
Mr. Curry: The basis of comparison used for police authorities' 1995 96 budget requirements is the sum of their budget requirements and police specific grants for 1994 95. These figures are set out in the table.
|£ ------------------------------------------------------------ Avon and Somerset police authority |137,801,214 Bedfordshire police authority |50,079,634 Cambridgeshire police authority |57,721,920 Cheshire police authority |84,377,320 Cleveland police authority |66,568,912 Cumbria police authority |53,672,404 Derbyshire police authority |81,857,892 Devon and Cornwall police authority |137,955,135 Dorset police authority |63,943,960 Durham police authority |59,299,640 Essex police authority |144,223,316 Gloucestershire police authority |53,473,574 Greater Manchester police authority |314,507,593 Hampshire police authority |153,138,739 Hertfordshire police authority |78,575,516 Humberside police authority |90,113,658 Kent police authority |150,058,300 Lancashire police authority |145,649,262 Leicestershire police authority |78,315,062 Lincolnshire police authority |57,710,930 Merseyside police authority |213,231,625 Norfolk police authority |63,868,603 Northamptonshire police authority |58,313,439 Northumbria police authority |163,141,000 North Yorkshire police authority |61,631,113 Nottinghamshire police authority |99,867,903 South Yorkshire police authority |136,870,700 Staffordshire police authority |99,688,454 Suffolk police authority |55,866,441 Surrey police authority |82,052,000 Sussex police authority |125,569,887 Thames Valley police authority |189,675,443 Warwickshire police authority |45,252,617 West Mercia police authority |93,750,746 West Midlands police authority |315,741,174 West Yorkshire police authority |240,888,893 Wiltshire police authority |57,848,723
Mrs. Peacock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to make available the national parks circular which he has undertaken to issue in connection with the national parks provisions in the Environment Bill.
Mr. Atkins: My Department has today issued for consultation a national parks circular which contains guidance on matters which have arisen in the context of the Government's proposals for the future of the national parks. Copies of the draft circular have been placed in the Library.
Mr. Curry [holding answer Friday 27 January 1995]: The step- up programme in South Thames training and enterprise council was funded from the business start-up scheme which has been incorporated into the single regeneration budget from 1 April 1994. All forward commitments arising from BSUS will be met, but funds for new start ups will depend on the implementation of successful SRB bids.