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12 Mar 2003 : Column 325W—continued

Parish Councils

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the difference in guidance between England and Wales issued in connection with the Parish Council Code of Conduct. [102125]

Mr. Leslie: Guidance to parish councils in England in connection with the code of conduct laid before Parliament in November 2001 by the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, has been issued by the Standards Board for England. Responsibility for guidance to community councils in Wales in connection with the code issued by the National Assembly for Wales in July 2001 rests with the Commission for Local Administration in Wales.

Private Housing (Improvement Loans)

Margaret Moran: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he plans to take to enable all local authorities to offer loans for private sector housing improvements. [97752]

Mr. McNulty: The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance)(England and Wales) Order 2002 gave local authorities new powers to provide a wide range of assistance for private sector housing improvements, including loans. Before using this new power authorities are required to adopt and publish a policy setting out how they intend to use the powers.

Local authorities currently spend about £300 million per annum on private sector housing renewal. The Sustainable Communities Plan announced that we have made available an extra £30 million in both 2004–05 and 2005–06 to help authorities support new ways to fund repairs and improvements to the homes of low income/vulnerable homeowners/tenants. This will form

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part of the single regional housing pot. A further announcement will be made shortly about the detailed allocation procedures for this additional funding.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many PSA targets there are for Sedgmoor District Council. [98308]

Mr. Raynsford: There are no Local PSA targets directly negotiated with Sedgmoor District Council. However, Sedgmoor District Council, with the four other District Councils in Somerset, are involved in the negotiations currently taking place between the Government and Somerset County Council on their Local PSA.

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Swire: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to register English regional assemblies as limited companies. [102342]

Mr. Raynsford: None. Elected regional assemblies in England will be established as bodies corporate by the legislation the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will bring forward after at least one region has voted in a referendum to have one. They will have power to form companies for the purposes of carrying out their functions if they see fit to do so.

Many of the existing regional chambers (who now all style themselves assemblies) are already or are considering registering as limited companies.

Regional Government

Matthew Green: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what Government funding each regional chamber has been granted in each financial year since 2000–01. [98483]

Mr. Raynsford: No funding was given in 2000–01. The Government announced in March 2001 that it would make £15 million available over the following three years for Regional Chambers funding. In 2001–02, each of the eight Regional Chambers was given a budget of £500,000 to draw down, to enable them to fulfil their role scrutinising Regional Development Agencies and for other regional co-ordination and strategic development work. A further £l million was assigned to the English Regions Network, the umbrella organisation for the Chambers, to fund projects of general interest. In 2002–03, the amount available to each Chamber was increased to £600,000, with the ERN allocation reduced accordingly. This will be repeated in 2003–04. The grant to the Chambers and to ERN is made on the basis of an agreed business plan.

Regional Planning Guidance

Helen Jones: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to make an announcement on the regional planning guidance for the North West; and if he will make a statement. [97654]

Mr. McNulty: It is anticipated that an announcement concerning the publication of Regional Planning Guidance for the North West (RPG13) will be made in March 2003.

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Social Housing

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effect of rent restructuring on tenants' rents in social and supported housing in inner city wards, where there has been high house price inflation. [97671]

Mr. McNulty: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not collect social housing rents data at ward level. Therefore no such assessment has been made. However, at a national average level, local authority and housing association rents are expected to go up over the 10 year rent restructuring period much more slowly than over the preceding 10 years. 30 per cent. of the Government's national rents formula is based on January 1999 relative property values, with the remaining 70 per cent. taking account of local earnings for affordability. The formula rent is therefore not affected by house price inflation since January 1999. In addition, absolute caps on formula rents, and limits on individual rent rises were introduced in autumn 2001 to address the concerns that formula rents would otherwise cause affordability problems for a small number of tenants. The housing benefit system forms an additional safeguard for those on the lowest incomes.

Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many properties were built with funding from local authority social housing grant (LASHG) in each Government office region in each year since 1996–97; how many new properties were built with LASHG funding in each local authority in London in each year since 1996–97; and what each London local authority spent on LASHG in each year since 1996–97. [102320]

Mr. McNulty: Information about properties built with funding from Local Authority Social Housing Grant since 1996–97 by region and in each local authority in London is being collated. I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Standards Board

Simon Hughes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many complaints have been received by the Standards Board for England since May 2002; and of these, how many (a) have so far proceeded to investigation stage, (b) were upheld and (c) are outstanding. [96848]

Mr. Raynsford: Between May 2002 and December 2002 (the latest date for which full figures are available) the Standards Board for England received 1,985 allegations of councillor misconduct.

Of those 1,985 allegations, (a) 695 were referred for investigation; (b) 41 have led to a referral to the Adjudication Panel for England 1 ; (c) 160 are awaiting consideration by the Standards Board as to whether to refer the case for investigation and 506 are under investigation.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average length has been of an investigation by the Standards Board for England since 2002. [96849]

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Mr. Raynsford: The average length of an investigation completed by the Standards Board during 2002 to the present date, from referral of an allegation from the board to ESO final finding, is four months.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the budget is for the Standards Board for England in 2002–03; and what the average cost is of an investigation by the Standards Board for England. [96850]

Mr. Raynsford: The Standards Board for England's budget for 2002–03, as set out in the Board's Corporate Plan (which is available in the Library of the House) is £7.9 million.

A figure for the average cost of an investigation is not yet available.

Starter Home Initiative

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many (a) teachers, (b) police officers, (c) nurses and health workers and (d) others have been assisted through the Starter Home Initiative in each (i) local authority area and (ii) Government office of the region it operates in each year of the initiative. [97805]

Mr. McNulty: As at 31 January 2003, some 2,000 key workers had purchased with Starter Home Initiative assistance homes that otherwise they would have been unable to afford. The information has been placed in the Library.

Supporting People Scheme

Margaret Moran: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he is taking to ensure children's support services in refuges are retained under the Supporting People initiative. [97748]

Mr. McNulty: The Supporting People programme will continue to pay for services that are currently paid for from the legacy funding streams that will go into the Supporting People pot. Children's services are not currently funded in this way, and Supporting People Grant would therefore generally not be used for these services.

Some children's services within refuges may, however, also provide housing-related support for mothers, and these services are likely to be funded under the Supporting People programme. For example, the provision of housing related support within children's services may include supporting women with parenting to ensure children settle in the refuge.

Support which predominantly involves direct individual and group support work with children is not fundable under Supporting People. It is therefore important that clear links are established between Supporting People Strategies and local Children's Services Plans and that relevant Social Care and Health workers are aware of the support needs of children living in households vulnerable to domestic violence. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will shortly be issuing guidance to local authorities on preparing their five-year strategies, and this will emphasise the importance of making these strategic links to ensuring that service users' needs are properly met.

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