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Further Education

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the areas where reorganisation of 16 to 19 provision has taken place in each year since 1997, listing in each case the general further education colleges, sixth form colleges and school sixth forms involved. [60040]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The information requested is contained in tables, copies of which I have placed in the Library.

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Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the proposals under consideration involving changes to the organisation of 16 to 19 provision. [60044]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department has been informed of the following proposals for schools to open new, or close existing, sixth forms for which we understand a decision has not yet been made by the local School Organisation Committee:

Name of schoolLEA
Proposals to establish new sixth forms
The Giles SchoolLincolnshire
Proposals to close sixth forms
Batley High School for BoysKirklees
Colne Valley High SchoolKirklees
St. Thomas Becket RC High SchoolKnowsley
Stratford Foundation SchoolNewham
Tideway Community SchoolEast Sussex

Information held by the Department on proposals for the reorganisation of colleges in the FE sector is as follows:

Pupil Absence

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the target proportion of pupil days to be lost through absence was for (a) each LEA and (b) England in each year since 1997. [59117]

Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 10 June 2002]: There is no target proportion of pupil days to be lost through absence for England. In the past local education authorities have only set targets for unauthorised absence through their Education Development plans. Local education authorities were asked to set new targets for the proportion of pupil days lost in their Education Development Plans this year, these targets will apply to the academic years 2002–03 and 2003–04. Education Development Plans are published by local education authorities.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many letters were received by each Minister in her Department in each month since June 1997. [59315]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the volume of Members' correspondence received by departments. The Report for 2001 was published on Friday 24 May (22 May 2002, Official Report, column 326W). Copies of previous reports are available in the Library of the House.

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Information about other correspondence received by Ministers (ie Treat Official correspondence) is not held centrally and can be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.

School Bullies

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance she has issued to appeals panels on overturning head teachers' decisions to exclude (a) bullies and (b) racist bullies. [60132]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Earlier this year we consulted publicly on a draft revised version of the guidance on the use of exclusion in our Circular 10–99 'Social Inclusion: Pupil Support'. This made clear that the Secretary of State would normally regard it as inappropriate to reinstate a pupil permanently excluded for (among other things) persistent and defiant behaviour—which would encompass bullying including racist bullying. All forms of bullying need to be dealt with firmly by schools. We cannot direct appeal panels to take particular decisions in particular cases, but we have made clear that they should also consider the impact that a reinstatement might have on other members of the school community.


Local Taxes and Rates

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister what council tax and non-domestic rates collection rates were achieved by English billing authorities in 2001–02. [61296]

Mr. Raynsford: I am publishing today figures showing that English councils have collected an extra £40 million in council taxes this year by simply improving on council tax collection rates. The figures show the good start of a joint initiative launched last year by us and the Local Government Association (LGA), to help poorly performing councils improve their collection rates.

English councils had collected £12.84 billion in council taxes for 2001–02 by the end of March 2002. The figures represent 96.1 per cent. of the £13.36 billion collectable. This is an increase of 0.3 per cent. on the previous year.

We recognise that council tax collection has therefore improved slightly, and that many councils are making a great effort. However, half a billion pounds was still uncollected last year. We recognise that this is money that could have been spent on local services and we believe there is still room for improvement. The Council Tax Collection Help Team which we set up with the LGA last year will continue its work to identify and tackle barriers to better performance and encourage good practice.

We also recognise that the in-year collection rate does not provide the full picture of the work authorities put in to collecting council tax. We will also be collecting and publishing authorities' levels of arrears and performance in collecting them.

The councils showing the best improvements in their performance include Hackney Council, which improved its collection rate from 67.8 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 74.0 per cent. this year, an increase of 6.2 percentage points; Lambeth Council, which improved its collection rate from

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82.0 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 86.5 per cent. this year, an increase of 4.5 percentage points; and Southwark Council, which improved its collection rate from 87.1 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 90.2 per cent. this year, an increase of 3.1 percentage points.

Other improving councils include North Hertfordshire, an increase of 2.8 percentage points, Waltham Forest, an increase of 2.6 percentage points, Castle Point, an increase of 2.5 percentage points, South Gloucestershire UA, an increase of 2.5 percentage points, and Oxford City, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.

In addition, figures show that £14.42 billion in non- domestic rates for 2001–2002 had been collected by the end of March. This represents 97.9 per cent. of the £14.74 billion collectable, an improvement of 0.5 percentage points on last year.

Background note "Information for the Minister (Not for the public domain)".

Local Authority Grant

Ms Coffey: To ask the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister how and when he intends to consult on new formulae for distributing general grant to local authorities in England. [61295]

Mr. Raynsford: We will consult publicly on the new system over the summer, ahead of implementing change in the 2003–04 Local Government Finance Settlement. The consultation document will include the principles for the new system and will show the effects of a range of possible options for each formula. We intend to start the consultation by mid-July.

Indices of Deprivation

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister what plans his Department has to include in the Indices of Deprivation statistics on access to local services and public transport for those over 65 and 75 years in the most deprived wards; and whether indicators on age-related issues will be included in the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit's review of how the Indices of Deprivation may be developed. [60623]

Mr. McNulty: The Indices of Deprivation (ID 2000) has been developed to provide a measure of how deprived a particular area (ward or local authority district) is relative to the rest of the country.

The current 'Access to Services' domain measures the extent to which people have poor geographical access to certain key services. Three of the indicators included in the domain (access to post offices, large food shops and doctors surgeries) measure geographical access to services for people on low incomes (ie claimants of means-tested benefits). As such, this will include pensioners who are eligible for income support payments.

The ID 2000 has been designed to reflect deprivation as experienced by all age groups, including the elderly. The forthcoming review on the further development of the indices will continue to maintain this objective.

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