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Affordable Housing

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he plans to alter the affordability rules to enable authorities in areas of high housing costs to build more affordable homes. [84428]

Mr. McNulty: There are no specific rules that apply to the costs of new affordable homes built by local authorities. Where an authority decides to fund additional affordable housing it will generally provide better value for money to do this through a housing association.

Council Tax

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the maximum amount is that the abolition of 50 per cent. discount council tax on (a) second and (b) empty homes will raise; what proportion (i) billing and (ii) precepting authorities will be able to retain; how a distinction between empty and abandoned homes will be made; and what the estimated compliance costs are of these changes. [844141]

Mr. McNulty: My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) announced on 19 November 2002 that the Government intend to allow English local authorities discretion to reduce council tax discounts on second homes from 50 per cent. to a minimum of 10 per cent. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has decided not to remove the discount completely because owners need an incentive to inform the local authority that properties are second homes. Without such information, it would not be possible to identify the extra revenue which could be raised from changing the discount. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also announced that we intend to allow English local authorities to reduce or remove completely the current 50 per cent. council tax discounts on long-term empty dwellings. In either case, the billing authority may determine to change the discount in all or part of its area.

Authorities where the second homes discount has been reduced will benefit from any additional council tax raised: we do not propose to reduce their revenue support grant to take account of their greater tax raising ability. If all authorities reduced the second home discounts to 10 per cent., this could potentially raise around £65 million. If all authorities removed the empty home discounts completely, this could raise a further £160 million.

The benefit of the additional revenue resulting from a reduction in the second homes discount would be shared with the major precepting authorities. The proportions which would go to billing authorities and to major precepting authorities will vary from location to location, depending on the proportion of the council tax bill in an area which goes to major precepting authorities, and different authorities' decisions about how the discount should be applied. The compliance costs will depend on how individual billing authorities decide to change the discounts.

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Mr. Evans: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much the Government spent on start-up costs for the (a) National Assembly for Wales and (b) Scottish Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [83792]

Mr. Leslie: Expenditure by the former Welsh Office on preparations for the National Assembly for Wales was £2.7 million. This includes the costs of the current interim Assembly building, the new building and the costs of staff directly attributed to the preparations for the Assembly. There were additional staff costs across the Welsh Office associated with the preparations for the Assembly but these are not separately identifiable.

Expenditure by the former Scottish Office on preparations for the Scottish Parliament was £13.4 million. These figures relate to costs for the current interim Parliament building, the new building (including purchase of the site) and those staff costs that can be directly attributed to preparations for the Scottish Parliament. There were other staff costs associated with preparations for the Parliament or on devolution generally involving staff working across most areas of the Scottish Office, but this expenditure was not recorded separately.

Disabled Facilities Grants

Helen Jackson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what the projected expenditure is for each of the next five years on disabled facilities grants; and what has been spent to date in this financial year in disabled facilities grants; [84565]

Mr. McNulty: The Government meets 60 per cent. of the total cost of local authority expenditure on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs), with the remaining 40 per cent. being met from elsewhere in local authorities budgets. The Government has, as of 15 November 2002, paid local housing authorities £66.5 million in the financial year 2002–03 in respect of their expenditure on DFGs. My right hon. Friend, the Deputy Prime Minister, is currently considering the allocation of funding for the three years to 2005–06, and the Government's contribution towards projected local authority expenditure on DFGs will be announced at the turn of the year.

The Government has no plans to further amend the legislation on the provision of housing adaptations for the disabled. The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England & Wales) Order 2002 came into force on 18 July 2002, and provides English and Welsh

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local housing authorities with wide discretionary powers to provide assistance for the repair, improvement or adaptations of housing. This power can be used to provide additional financial help to a disabled person over and above any mandatory entitlement to a DFG.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department of Health are jointly preparing comprehensive guidance to local authorities on best practice in the organisation and delivery of a housing adaptations service for disabled people. This guidance will be issued in draft for consultation very shortly.

Total Disabled Facilities Grants payments made by English local authorities over the last 10 years are:

Year£ million

The Government does not collect data either on the average waiting time for DFG, or the number of households waiting for such a grant.

Empty Properties

Adam Price: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many unoccupied domestic properties there are in the UK; and how many are in the ownership of local authorities. [82725]

Mr. McNulty: The total number of vacant dwellings in England at 1 April 2001 (latest available data) was 755,100. Of those vacant dwellings, 80,300 were in the ownership of local authorities.

Many of these vacant dwellings are transitional vacants (eg they may be in the process of being bought or sold). The breakdown below shows numbers of vacant dwellings by tenure and the number of dwellings that have been vacant for more than six months at 1 April 2001.

Total dwellings vacant at 1 April 2001of which: vacant for more than six months
Local authority80,30031,500
Registered Social Landlord41,30014,900
'Other' public sector10,900(4)
'Other' private sector622,600310,200

(4) Not collected.


All figures rounded to the nearest 100.


All data from ODPM Housing Investment Programme (HIP) returns except for data on RSLs obtained from the Housing Corporation's 2001 Regulatory and Statistical Return (RSR)

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For information about other parts of the UK I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friends the Members for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), for Neath (Peter Hain) and for Airdrie and Shotts (Mrs. Liddell).

Homes (Key Workers)

Mr. Horam: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many (a) teachers and (b) further education college lecturers have benefited from the starter home initiative for key workers; and if he will make a statement on policy towards further education lecturers. [85428]

Mr. McNulty: The funding available to assist teachers into home ownership under the Starter Home Initiative is targeted at teachers in schools ie the Secondary School sector. To date over 700 teachers have purchased homes under the Initiative that they would otherwise have been unable to afford.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister recognises that other key workers, including further education lecturers, need to be able to find affordable homes within a reasonable distance of their work place. Our wider housing policies to increase the supply of affordable homes in areas where demand is high will benefit other groups of key workers. In addition the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be looking at ways to extend our existing programmes for affordable housing through greater partnership with employers and with public and private sector landlords.

Early in the new year my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will set out in his Communities Plan a long term programme of action for housing and sustainable communities. This will address affordable housing issues, including key worker housing.

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