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4 Dec 2002 : Column 882Wcontinued
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister by how much total expenditure would be increased if all parish and town councils in England increased the maximum £3.50 per elector multiplier as specified in section 137(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 up to £5.00 as specified in the draft Local Government Bill; and by how much audit best value and other compliance costs for parish and town councils have increased in each of the last two years. 
Mr. Leslie: The maximum expenditure by English parish and town councils currently permitted under section 137(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 is estimated to be about £45 million per year. It is estimated that this would increase to about £65 million per year as a result of the maximum amount increasing from £3.50 to £5.00 per elector.
Not all parish and town councils make full use of the existing £3.50 amount, but we are increasing it because it has been in place since 1990, and consultation responses to the XModernising Local Government Finance" green paper have shown that it has been inhibiting expenditure for some councils.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not hold information on the total cost of financial audit for parish and town councils. For parish councils, the Audit Commission's 'lighter touch' regime aims to develop a proportionate audit approach as well as a reduction in audit fees for most councils.
The exact costs of best value are not known. However, the duty of best value should not have added excessive costs when a council is well organised and managed. Any additional costs should have been offset by gains in economy, efficiency and effectiveness and by the new opportunities provided by innovative service delivery through for example by partnership arrangements. Councils would have been free to plough back the savings made into core and other services.
Moreover, the Government announced in the local government white paper XStrong Local LeadershipQuality Public Services" that it will pay a grant of £30,000 per year to Best Value Town and Parish Councils to cover the costs of audit and the corporate costs of carrying out work relating to best value, such as preparation of performance plans and the management of reviews.
Mr. Leslie: On 19 November, my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) announced we would be giving English local authorities the discretion to reduce or remove the current 50 per cent. council tax discount on long-term empty property. The Office of the Deputy Prime
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Minister has included the necessary provision in the Local Government Bill and, subject to parliamentary approval, we aim to implement this change on 1 April 2004.
Mr. Leslie: Since August 2001, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has received 12 representations from members of the public about the council tax exemption for premises occupied by students. Nine of those believed that landlords should be made liable for the council tax in properties occupied only by students, while three suggested that students should be made liable for the council tax.
Mr. Raynsford: The report on the Fire Cover Review was commissioned by the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council and it is for the council to decide whether or not to endorse the report and publish its findings. It was expected that the council would discuss the report at a meeting on 12 November2002, but this was cancelled as a result of the fire service pay dispute. The next meeting is currently scheduled to take place on 12 February 2002. If the Council endorses the report a copy will be placed in the Libraries of the House. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will give a response to the report in the light of the discussion in the Council and after wide consultation.
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Gloucestershire County Council requesting further assistance for extra Green Goddesses and crew to man them for Cinderford, Gloucestershire. 
Mr. Leslie: The Local Government Act 2000 provided considerable additional discretion to local authorities through the introduction of a new power to promote or improve the economic, social or environmental well-being of their areas unless prohibited elsewhere in legislation. I also refer the hon. Member to the written statement given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) on 26 November concerning a package of measures to devolve power to local authorities, including recent and proposed changes to legislation.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will list the local performance indicators monitoring the activities of specific local authorities in (a) 200102 and (b) 200203, for each local authority with local performance indicators. 
Mr. Leslie: Local authorities employ a wide variety of indicators to measure their performance across a range of activities, and no central record is kept of them.Where indicators are prescribed by Government under the Local Government Act 1999, these are published annually following consultation with local government and others. The attached table summarises the number of such indicators in 200102 and 200203 by type of authority. Full details are contained in SI 2001 No 724 and SI2002 No 523, copies of which can be found in the library of the House. A similar number of indicators was previously prescribed by the Audit Commission: these were replaced entirely in 200102 by those prescribed by Government under the 1999 Act.
|National BVPIs and ACPIs 200001||National BVPIs 200102||Percentages decrease from 200001 to 200102||National BVPIs 200203||Percentages decrease from 200001 to 200203||Percentages from 200102 to 200203|
|County Councils (including fire)||134||105||22.||86||36.||18.|
BVPIs, ie indicators prescribed by Government under the 1999 Act.
ACPIs, ie. Indicators prescribed by the Auidt Commission under the Local Government Act 1992, consolidated into the Audit Commission Act 1998.
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Mrs. Roche: The information requested is not broken down by constituency but the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund is allocated to local authority districts that fall within the 50 most deprived authorities on any of the six district level summary measures of the ward level Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD 2000). The six measures are:
Employment scalethe number of people experiencing employment deprivation
Local Concentrationtells us how severe deprivation is in each authorities 'hot spots' of deprivation
Extentthe percentage of each district's population that live in one of the 10 per cent. most deprived wards in England
The 'average scores' and 'average ranks' measures are the average level of deprivation across the entire district.
Blackburn with Darwen
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Redcar and Cleveland
Newcastle upon Tyne
Barking and Dagenham
Bristol, City of
Hammersmith and Fulham
Kensington and Chelsea
Brighton and Hove
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