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Unspent Budgets

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list for each area-based initiative for which his Department is responsible the amount originally budgeted for in (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02, stating in each year what funds budgeted for were not spent and if they were carried forward. [71462]

Mr Nicholas Brown: Action Teams for Jobs is an area-based initiative in employment-deprived, disadvantaged areas. The budget for 2000–01 was £20 millions, of which £11 millions were spent and the remainder carried forward into 2001–02. The budget for 2001–02 was £57 millions, of which £52 millions were spent. The remainder will be carried forward to support the Department's programmes helping disadvantaged groups.

Employment Zones are pilots of an alternative way of delivering services to unemployed people aged 25 and over which are run in 15 areas where there are high concentrations of long-term unemployment. The budget for 2000–01 was £53 millions and for 2001–02 was £87 millions. There were no underspends in either year.

Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average sum of money clawed back by the compensation recovery unit under the Social Security (Recovery of Payments) Act 1997 has been in each of the last four years. [69736]

Maria Eagle: The information is in the table.

Financial YearAverage amount recovered(132)


Compensation Recovery Unit records


(132)Figures relate to the average amount recovered in cases considered by the Compensation Recovery Unit where recovery is effected. They do not include cases where no recovery is appropriate.

(133)Amounts recovered can vary considerably depending on a number of factors including the nature of the illness or accident, the date of onset of the condition, the time taken to reach settlement, whether interim settlements are made, and the benefit in payment.

Advertising Campaigns

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent on press and advertising campaigns in 2001–02; and what the planned expenditure is for 2002–03. [60915]

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Mr Nicholas Brown: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001. Since that time and up till the end of 2001–02 financial year a total of £16.96 million was spent on advertising media.

For the financial year 2002–03 campaign activity is being planned in a number of important areas such as Pensions Education and Payment Modernisation. The role of press, radio and TV advertising in these campaigns is still to be decided.

Post Office

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the answer of 31 October 2001, Official Report, column 695W, when the migration and marketing strategy for the Post Office Card Account will be developed; in what timescale it will be implemented; and if she will make a statement. [72607]

Mr McCartney: The Department for Work and Pensions, Northern Ireland Social Security Agency, the Inland Revenue and the Post Office are currently developing a customer information campaign to inform customers about the changes to the way we pay benefits and tax credits from April 2003. The information campaign will provide information on banking options, including the card account at the Post Office.

Swipe Card Accounts

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether (a) the basic bank accounts and (b) the proposed Post Office swipe card accounts will provide interest to people whose accounts are in credit. [72423]

Malcolm Wicks: The terms and conditions of basic bank accounts are a matter for the individual banks. However, basic bank accounts do not generally pay interest. The card account at the Post Office will not offer interest. Other accounts are available for people who wish to earn interest on account balances.

Budgeting Loans

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to reform the management of budgeting loans; [71213]

Malcolm Wicks: The discretionary Social Fund provides interest-free loans giving flexible help for a wide variety of needs to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

We have already substantially modernised and improved the administration of the budgeting loan scheme to make it simpler, less intrusive, more transparent and faster. We have also changed the way the loans budget is allocated to ensure greater consistency across all areas of the country.

The scheme already provides for anyone who finds the repayments terms offered unacceptable to opt for a lower size of loan and lower repayments. In addition, anyone

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who has difficulty maintaining repayments can ask for the repayment period to be extended so that weekly repayments are reduced to a more manageable level.

We will continue to keep all elements of the Social Fund under review to see whether further improvements can be made to its operation and to ensure that the Fund supports our wider welfare reforms.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the reasons underlying the proportion of allocated budgeting loans which are not received in full. [71210]

Malcolm Wicks: The discretionary Social Fund plays an important role in the welfare system by helping the poorest and most needy members of society meet the cost of occasional one-off essential items through community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans.

It would be unfair to allow the cash-limited loan budget to be monopolised by people continually topping-up their loans to the maximum at the expense of others. Therefore under the reforms we introduced in April 1999 the scheme limits access to further budgeting loans while previous loans are still being repaid.

We no longer allow further loans to people who have outstanding budgeting loan debt of more than half the maximum amount available to them. Once their existing debt drops to less than half they can reapply, although the amount of further loan available to them could still be affected by any outstanding debt.

Other reasons for reduced awards are because a person's debt has reached the maximum of £1,000, because their savings exceed the limits or because they would be unable to repay a higher amount.


Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what evaluation he has made of the number of jobs that will be lost as a result of the closure of rural jobcentres; how many rural jobcentres will be closed; how many new Jobcentre Plus facilities will be established in towns; and what assessment he has made of the impact of the closure of local jobcentres in rural areas on rural employment seekers and local businesses. [72746]

Mr Nicholas Brown: The integrated Jobcentre Plus offices, which we will be extending throughout Great Britain over the next few years, will open up more employment opportunities by offering a greatly improved, work focused service to all adults of working age who are not in work.

In some rural locations existing Jobcentres are likely to be replaced as part of this programme by alternative forms of service delivery. Our aim will be to maintain the service we offer through the use of telephone and internet based services and through the use of partner organisations. Detailed decisions, location by location, will be taken only after discussion with local authorities and other organisations.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the turnover of staff was in jobcentres in (a) Somerset and (b) the UK in (i) 1999–2000, (ii) 2000–01 and (iii) 2001–02. [69395]

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Mr Nicholas Brown: The available information is in the table.

Turnover of staff in the Employment Service in Great Britain (leavers as a percentage of staff in post)a


Jobcentre Plus Personnel


a Staff turnover figures cover all Employment Service staff, approximately 90 per cent. of whom work in jobcentres.

b Staff turnover figures for 1999–2000 could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Staff turnover information for Somerset is not available.

Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list, by region, those jobcentres which will by the end of 2003 be (a) converted to jobcentre plus and (b) closed. [73442]

Mr Nicholas Brown: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive, Leigh Lewis. I have asked him to reply to the hon. Member.

Letter from Leigh Lewis to Mr. Heath dated 24 July 2002:
As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the conversion of Jobcentres to Jobcentre Plus offices. This falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.
Jobcentre Plus has brought together the working age parts of the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service. We began the process of bringing the work of Benefit Offices and Jobcentres together with the opening of 56 integrated Jobcentre Plus offices in 2001. We have also announced plans to open more integrated offices in 25 of our 90 Districts by the end of March 2003. I have arranged for a list of these Districts to be placed in the Library.
Plans are currently being developed for conversion work to take place later in 2003 and beyond. It is not therefore possible to provide an overall number of offices which may close over the roll out period.I hope this is helpful.

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