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22 Oct 2002 : Column 297W—continued


Tim Loughton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many families were living in bed and breakfast accommodation in (a) East Worthing and Shoreham and (b) West Sussex in each year since 1997. [73926]

Mr. McNulty: The East Worthing and Shoreham Parliamentary constituency is covered by Adur DC and part of Worthing DC. Information reported by these and other councils in West Sussex on the total number of households—including couples and single persons without children—accommodated in bed and breakfast units under statutory homelessness provisions at the end of March in each year since 1997 is summarised below.

Homeless Households in Bed and Breakfast Accommodation as at 31 March*

Adur DCWorthing DCAll DCs in West Sussex
1997not reported3965 (estimated)


* includes households accommodated pending completion of enquiries by the local authority.


1997: P1(E) housing return (quarterly)

1998 onwards: Housing Investment Programme returns (annual)

Earlier this year the Government announced a new commitment to ensure that by March 2004 no family with children will be placed in B&B other than in an emergency, and even then for no more than 6 weeks. This was accompanied by changes in Housing Benefit subsidies to make leasing self-contained temporary accommodation more cost effective, and an additional #35 million to help local authorities find alternatives to B&B.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he last met the Director of the Homelessness Unit. [73927]

Mr. McNulty: My right hon. Friend, the Deputy Prime Minister regularly meets officials in the course of his official duties.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent estimate he has made of the level of homelessness; how he defines a homeless person; and if he will make a statement. [74658]

Mrs. Barbara Roche: At the end of June 2002 81,170 households in England were living in temporary accommodation, including over 6,500 families with children in bed and breakfast hotels, and around 600 people were sleeping rough on any one night.

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Under the homelessness legislation (Housing Act 1996), a person is ''statutorily homeless'' if they do not have accommodation which they have a legal right to live in, which is physically available to them and which it would be reasonable for them to continue to occupy.

In March 2002, the Homelessness Directorate published a report ''More than a Roof'', which outlined the Government's new approach to tackling homelessness funded by #125 million over this year. The Homelessness Act 2002 will also bring about radical change in the way that central and local government, and all other partners, work together to tackle homelessness. For the first time ever, local authorities will be required to carry out a review and develop a strategy for their area that prevents homelessness and provides solutions for people who are, or who may become homeless.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he is taking to tackle homelessness in rural areas. [73988]

Mr. McNulty: The Homelessness Directorate's report ''More than a roof'', sets out specific measures to tackle homelessness backed up by a #125 million investment over the next year. The Homelessness Directorate has provided a total of over #3.7 million to local authorities in rural areas over the next year to fund schemes such as mediation services for family and couples in relationship difficulties; additional support for women fleeing domestic violence; rent deposit guarantee schemes to help homeless people find housing in the private sector; court and landlord advice services to reduce evictions; and debt and welfare counselling to help people sustain their tenancies.

Pathfinder Renewal Project

Mr. Pike: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will announce the resources allocation for the Pathfinder Renewal Project. [74248]

Mr. McNulty: The 2002 spending review settlement has provided an extra #1.4 billion for housing. This will help to provide well-designed, affordable homes where they are needed, improve stock conditions in both the social and the private rented sectors, and tackle low demand through significant funds for the pathfinder projects. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is giving careful consideration to the best use of this additional funding to deliver sustainable communities. My right hon. Friend has said that he will report back to the House at the turn of the year.

Local Government

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister where responsibility will lie for (a) police, (b) waste disposal and (c) fire services in new unitary authorities. [73354]

Mr. Raynsford: The Regional Governance White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice, published in May, sets out the Government's plans to establish unitary local authorities in place of existing county and district councils in those regions where people vote in a referendum for elected regional assemblies. In any region where the Government decides that a referendum

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should take place, the Boundary Committee for England will carry out a review and recommend the best unitary arrangements for the two-tier parts of that region. A referendum will then be held to see whether people support the creation of an elected assembly. The new unitary arrangements will be implemented if—but only if—a majority of those voting in the referendum voted for an elected regional assembly.

Where new unitary arrangements are introduced, we would expect that existing police authorities would remain in place. Appointments to these authorities would be made either by unitary districts or by the unitary county council, depending on the new unitary structure.

There are currently combined fire authorities in former county areas which have only unitary local authorities; and also in areas where there are one or more unitaries, district councils and a county council. Where changes lead to district-based unitaries in future, we would expect there to be a combined fire authority, but where they lead to a unitary county with no existing or new district-based unitaries, we would expect the county council to remain responsible for providing fire services. This is without prejudice to our consideration of any recommendations on the organisation of the fire service that Professor Sir George Bain's recently announced review might make.

Waste disposal is currently a responsibility of county councils and would become a responsibility of unitary authorities where these are established in future in regions that have an elected assembly.

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Local Authority Referendums

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what has been the average turnout for referendums held by local authorities to establish opinion on local issues. [74215]

Mr. Raynsford: Information about turnout for those referendums which local authorities hold voluntarily is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. The average turnout in binding referendums which councils held between June 2001 and October 2002 on whether or not their area should have a directly elected mayor was 29 per cent., within a range of 10 per cent. to 64 per cent.

Rural Housing

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans his Department has to encourage the provision of more affordable housing in rural communities. [73831]

Mr. McNulty: The Government recognise that there is a shortage of affordable housing in many rural towns and villages. The need can be for both homes to rent and to buy.

We expect all local authorities to develop housing strategies and to develop local housing need assessments as part of their long-term plans. We believe that judicious use of their planning powers can deliver more affordable housing.

By next year, we expect to deliver around 9,000 affordable homes annually in rural areas, including 3,000 in small settlements. Of these, a proportion will be for low-cost home ownership.