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17 Dec 2003 : Column 952W—continued

Local Government Finance

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister why information on the 2004–05 Local Government Finance Settlement was released after local authorities had agreed their budgets; and how he expects councils to take account of the settlement. [145008]

Mr. Raynsford: The provisional local government finance settlement for 2004–05 was announced on 19 November 2003, and we expect the final settlement to be debated at around the end of January or the beginning of February 2004, in line with the normal settlement timetable.

The statutory deadlines by which local authorities must set their budgets fall some time after the expected approval of the final settlement. The deadlines are; for levying bodies, 15 February; for major preceptors, 1 March; and for billing authorities, 11 March.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how he expects local councils in North Yorkshire to make up the shortfall they are facing following the 2004–05 local government finance settlement; and if he will make a statement. [145009]

Mr. Raynsford: The provisional local government finance settlement for 2004–05 gives all local authorities in North Yorkshire an above inflation increase in formula grant. Councils in the Yorkshire and the Humber region receive an average grant increase of 5.0 per cent.

Ministerial Visit

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has held with the Minister without Portfolio regarding that Minister's visit to the tri-Service Emergency Centre in Gloucester earlier in 2003. [144927]

Mr. Raynsford: The Minister without Portfolio and I discussed his visit to the tri-Service Emergency Centre on 5 December 2003.

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the estimated cost is of setting up the new tariff system in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill as the alternative to the section 106 (Town and Country Planning Act 1990); and whether the section 106 procedure will change under the Bill. [144204]

Keith Hill: The issue of the cost of establishing and operating the optional planning charge system is addressed in the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment which accompanies the Government's consultation document "Contributing Sustainable Communities—a new approach to planning obligations", published on 6 November 2003.

Nothing in the Bill precludes the negotiated route being the same in character as the way s106 operates now. The Government's consultation document proposes some improvements to the way in which planning obligations are negotiated, mainly by promoting good practice, where the developer opts for the negotiated route rather than pay the optional planning charge. We will await the results of the consultation before deciding whether any changes to the negotiated procedure are appropriate.

West Sussex County Council

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will estimate what the level of grant increase to West Sussex County Council in 2004–05 would be if calculated on the basis of increase in population; [143861]

Mr. Raynsford: The increase in formula grant (i.e. Revenue Support Grant plus Redistributed Business Rates plus Police Grant) for West Sussex County Council would be £7,581,434.

This has been calculated as follows:

Please note that the mid-2001 population estimate used was that published by the Office for National Statistics on 10 October 2002, since these were the population estimates used in the calculation of the 2003–04 Formula Spending Shares. Following the approval by Parliament of the 2003–04 Local Government Finance Settlement, the mid-2001

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population estimates were revised. An Amending Report for 2003–04 to reflect the revised mid-year estimates will be submitted to the House for approval in due course.

Since in all areas of England council services are supplied by more than one type of authority the change in population in an area has to be divided between the authorities supplying services in an area. For the purpose of the above calculation we have used the share of assumed national council tax given in Annex B of the draft Local Government Finance Report (England) 2004–05 to split the change in population between types of authority.

The proposed increase in grant for West Sussex in 2004–05 is £17,132,188, this is an increase of 4.5per cent. on the 2003–04 formula grant on a like-for-like basis.


Enterprise Advisers

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many enterprise advisers for schools will be publicly funded in (a) England and (b) the Eastern Region. [143504]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the Council's Chief Executive, will write to my hon. Friend with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the Library.


Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the required admissions policies of Academies; and which academies do not comply with the requirements. [142740]

Mr. Miliband: All Academies are required, by their funding agreements with the Secretary of State, to comply with the Admissions Code of Practice and with the law on admissions as it applies to maintained schools. I am not aware of any Academy which has admission arrangements that do not meet this requirement.

Big Conversation

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what visits (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department (i) have made and (ii) plan to make using public funds in connection with the Big Conversation; how many civil servants accompanied each Minister in respect of such visits; what the cost to public funds was of visits by (A) each Minister and (B) civil servants in connection with the Big Conversation; and if he will make a statement. [143165]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Leader of the House on 9 December 2003, Official Report, column 355W.

Boys' Literacy

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the decrease in the percentage of boys achieving level two and above

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in writing tests at Key Stage 1 between 2002 and 2003, referred to in the Ofsted report on National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. [144376]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The following table shows the percentage of pupils achieving level 2 or above in the Key Stage 1 attainment tests since 1998, (split into girls, boys and all pupils):


In 2003 significant changes were introduced to the assessment of writing at KS1. For the first time marks for spelling contributed to the pupils' overall writing level instead of separate level for spelling being reported. In addition there were changes to the format of the writing test and a new mark scheme was introduced. These new testing arrangements have produced a different distribution of marks and it is difficult to draw conclusions through comparisons with previous years' results. For example a larger proportion of pupils secured the higher levels in writing than in previous years. The percentage of all pupils achieving Level 2B or above in writing rose from 60 per cent. in 2002 to 62 per cent. in 2003; the percentage of boys achieving that level rose from 52 per cent. to 54 per cent. The percentage of all pupils at Level 3 rose from 9 per cent. in 2002 to 16 per cent. in 2003; the percentage of boys achieving that level rose from 7 per cent. to 11 per cent.

It remains a point of concern that boys' achievement in writing at KS1, as at all Key Stages, lags behind that of girls, and the Primary Strategy will continue to support teachers in raising standards further. In spring 2004 new support materials will be offered on improving boys' writing. We will also be piloting the development and delivery of a specialist support package for early years practitioners so that they can begin to tackle the challenges faced by disadvantaged children as soon as they enter the Foundation Stage. A particular focus for the specialists will be to improve the speaking, listening and communication skills of these children.

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