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Age Discrimination

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps his Department is taking to address the issue of age discrimination. [109458]

Mr. Leslie: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is committed to valuing and promoting diversity and equality of treatment for all regardless of age, and has taken steps to integrate age into equal opportunity policies. Action on diversity will tackle any negative attitudes towards older staff particularly through the training and development of managers and through the monitoring of recruitment, selection and appraisal statistics.

Council Tax Benefit

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the cost to (a) central and (b) local government of administering council tax benefit in 2002–03; and if he will make a statement. [109532]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

This Department subsidises local authorities for the administration of council tax benefit (CTB) and housing benefit (HB). In 2001–02 this amounted to £161 million and in 2002–03 it was £170 million. This sum is matched by Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive through

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the general funds that they distribute to local authorities. Of our allocation, in 2001–02 £74.2 million was specified for use in CTB administration, a similar amount was supplied by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive. However, the formulae used to split funds between HB and CTB by these administrations are slightly different, therefore the exact amounts may vary. In 2002–03 £78.5 million was specified by DWP for use in CTB administration.

For 2001–02, in addition to the £161 million, we distributed a further £5.5 million for policy and budget changes and £7.5 million to implement new appeals procedures. These figures were not broken down into separate amounts for CTB and HB. This corrects the information given in my written reply on 8 April 2003, Official Report, column 228–9W.

For 2002–03 the Department distributed an additional £6 million to local authorities to help them meet set-up costs relating to the new tax credits, and £15 million for set-up costs relating to the Pension Credit. These extra allocations were made to meet the costs of administering both HB and CTB and a separate breakdown for CTB is not available.

From this year, administration subsidy for both HB and CTB is funded entirely by this Department as one direct grant to local authorities.

Reported expenditure by local authorities on Council Tax Benefit administration is not yet available for 2002–03.


Gregory Barker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations his Department has received concerning the dangers of house building on flood plains. [117488]

Mr. McNulty: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and its predecessors have regularly received representations on various aspects of the risks of all types of inappropriate development, including house building, in areas at risk from river and coastal flooding. These risks have for many years been reflected in planning guidance to local authorities, most recently in Planning Policy Guidance Note 25, "Development and Flood Risk", published in July 2001. This updated, strengthened and replaced the previous guidance in Department of the Environment Circular 30/92. In particular, it introduced a risk-based approach that matches types of development to levels of risk.It makes clear that residential development is not appropriate in the functional flood plain, where excess water must flow in times of flood. In less high-risk areas that are already developed, further residential building may be possible,

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but only after a flood risk assessment appropriate to the scale and nature of the development has been carried out.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many new houses have been granted planning permission on areas deemed at (a) low, (b) medium and (c) high risk of flooding for each year since 1997. [117489]

Mr. McNulty: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the then Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) on 7 May 2002, Official Report, column 25W, in respect of the years before 2001–02. While information in not collected in the form requested, the operation of the policies on development in flood risk areas in PPG25, "Development and Flood Risk", is monitored by the Environment Agency through its high level target 12, which it reports to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. The latest report, for 2001–02, shows that around 800 dwellings in England—less than 0.5 per cent. of the total—were subject to sustained objections by the Environment Agency on grounds of flood risk, but permitted after consideration by the local authorities concerned. Since about 10 per cent. of the land area and population of England is within the area of the Agency's indicative flood plain maps, this shows that local authorities are already giving serious consideration to flood risk in permitting new housing developments.

Local Authority Funding

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what specific or direct grants have been made by his Department to local authorities for 2003–04 (a) in England and (b) broken down by local authority, identifying whether the grant is (i) ring-fenced, (ii) a specific formula grant, (iii) within aggregate external finance and (iv) outside aggregate external finance. [114914]

Mr. Raynsford: The information requested is available in the Library of the House.

Market Research

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what expenditure has been incurred by his (a) Department, (b) agencies and (c) non-departmental bodies in 2002 on (i) opinion polling, (ii) focus groups and (iii) other forms of market research; and if he will list the surveys commissioned and the purpose of each. [106262]

Mr. Leslie: The detailed information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Parliamentary Question

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will reply to question ref: 111772, tabled on 5 May 2003 by the right hon. Member for West Worcestershire. [117203]

Mr. Leslie: The named parliamentary question was answered on 5 June 2003.

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Press Office

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people are employed in his Department's Press Office; and how many were employed on 2 May 1997. [108400]

Mr. Leslie: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created on 29 May 2002. On 1 April 2003, the Office employed 21.8 full-time equivalent press officers and five full-time equivalent administrative support staff.

Street Wardens

Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will continue the funding arrangement beyond March 2004 to enable the experimental Community Street Wardens Scheme in Colchester to be established on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement. [116314]

Mrs. Roche: Government funding for Warden Schemes was awarded on a short-term basis, and it was clear from the start that this financial support would only be for a limited period. Additionally, local

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authorities have requested that we stop area-based initiatives, in order that they have more flexibility in how they spend their own funds. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister already has examples of local authorities and housing associations that are mainstreaming schemes.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is working closely with all schemes in the development of their future sustainability plans. Events are being held and guidance has been produced for scheme managers. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is promoting the wardens approach, particularly as a key element of neighbourhood management.

Supporting People Grant

Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister why his Department proposes to deduct money from the Supporting People grant allocation for Dorset. [118213]

Mr. McNulty: The adjustment has been made to allow for expected savings due to declining obligations in respect of transitionally protected clients and the impact of early service reviews.