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Linda Perham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the financial impact on each London borough of their duties with regard to asylum seekers and refugees; and what assistance he has given to London boroughs to cope with these financial pressures. 
Mr. Raynsford: We have looked carefully with local government during the spending reviews at all the pressures that they face. Additionally, we have provided local authorities with increases in general revenue grant since taking office. London boroughs received an average general grant increase of 5.6 per cent. in the current financial year.
We have also revised the formats of the grants providing essential living needs of asylum seekers supported under the Asylum Support (Interim Scheme) Regulations 1999, as amended and are looking to do the same with the grant for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Linda Perham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to provide resources to house the families with children in Redbridge who reside in temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast accommodation. 
Mrs. Roche: In June this year, the London Borough of Redbridge was allocated just over 426,000 to help them reduce the number of homeless families with children in Bed and Breakfast hotels (B&B) and to meet the national commitment of ensuring that by March 2004 no such household is in B&B, other than in an emergency, and even then for no more than six weeks. Rebridge will also benefit from the increased housing benefit subsidy rates, estimated nationally at £10 million, introduced in April this year. This provides additional subsidy to local
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authorities to secure self-contained temporary accommodation, rather than B&B, for homeless households.
The net costs to local authorities of securing accommodation for homeless applicants, apart from those costs related to the use of authorities' own housing stock, are funded through general grant. Grant is distributed through Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) and local authorities' responsibilities in this area are contained within the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services (EPCS) SSA block. The London Borough of Redbridge received an increase in it's EPCS SSA of £1.35m which equals a 3 per cent. increase. For local authorities overall, the EPCS SSA is set to increase by an average of 4 per cent. a year up to 2005/06.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent discussions his Department has had with (a) the Department of Education and Skills and (b) the Department of Health regarding runaway children in care. 
Mrs. Roche: The Social Exclusion Unit in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently working on projects on both the educational attainment of children in care and young runaways. Ministers and officials from the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health have been very closely involved in both projects.
Mr. Brazier : To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people over the age of 60 (a) are employed in the civil service and (b) were appointed to full-time positions in the civil service in the last 12 months. 
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Information on the age of civil servants is collected centrally via the Mandate system, which covers about 98 per cent. of those employed. (a) In April 2002, there were 8,540 civil servants aged over 60, representing 1.7 per cent. of the total. (b) In the year to April 2002, 350 staff aged over 60 were recruited to full-time posts. This represents 0.5 per cent. of all new full-time appointees.
In line with all employers in the public and private sector, the Government believes that the civil service should be allowed to determine retirement age policy with regard to its business needs while giving staff as much choice as possible about when they retire. Departments and agencies are free to set the normal retirement age for their own staff subject only to the requirement that the minimum age at which civil servants can retire with full superannuation benefits is 60.
Against this background, 75 per cent. of the civil service now has the option to remain in work until 65, and a further 11 per cent. has the option to remain in work on short service concessions. Those Departments and agencies which have decided that there is a strong case for retaining a retirement age of 60 in the current circumstances will be expected to continue to re-examine the issue and look positively at offering more flexibilities to older staff.
The normal retirement age for the senior civil service is 60. However, Heads of Departments and Agency Chief Executives have the flexibility to retain members of the senior civil service beyond 60 if they judge it to be in the public interest and are satisfied about the fitness and efficiency of the individual to carry out his or her duties.
Mr. McNulty: There are no figures currently available on how much land in the Greater London area is contaminated. A survey of London boroughs was carried out by LPAC in 1993 that indicated that at that time there were about 1,400 hectares of land that were not able to be developed for an alternative use without a significant degree of treatment.
Since April 2000 local authorities in England have been under a statutory duty to inspect their areas to identify contaminated land under part IIA (Xcontaminated land") of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. To date, local authorities have mostly concentrated on preparing inspection strategies. The majority of these have now been been published and for many authorities inspections are under way.
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(3) how many council properties were sold under the right to buy scheme in (a) December 1999 and (b) January 2000. 
Mr. McNulty: The information requested is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Data on the sale of council dwellings are collected from local authorities in England on a quarterly rather than monthly basis. Information on quarterly right to buy sales is presented in Table 6 of the publication XHousing Statistics, March Quarter 2002", and is also available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister website.
Mr. Leslie: On 19 November, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced that we would include provision in our Local Government Bill to enable English and Welsh local authorities to introduce their own locally defined discounts and exemptions. This would allow local authorities to increase the national 25 per cent. single person discount if they so wished. Local authorities would not have power to reduce or remove the current 25 per cent. discount.
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