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17 Dec 2003 : Column 984W—continued

Post Offices

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements he will put in place to pay benefits in urban areas where the Royal Mail has closed post office outlets and no services are available within two miles of claimants' homes. [144175]

Mr. Pond: The Government are committed to doing all they can to ensure a viable Post Office network for the future. We are investing very substantial sums in supporting the transformation of the network—some £2 billion in total over the next five years. The Post Office in turn has guaranteed that, even after the urban reinvention programme, 95 per cent. of people living in urban areas will be within a mile of a Post Office, the majority within half a mile.

Direct Payment and the introduction of universal banking services has provided customers with a choice of options as to how they can access their money including, cash machines, via the cashback facilities offered by some retailers, over the counter at banks and building societies and through Post Office branches.

Small Businesses

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether his Department uses a database of individual small businesses for consultation purposes. [142474]

Mr. Browne: When conducting public consultation exercises governed by the Cabinet Office Code of Practice, the Department for Work and Pensions draws on a variety of sources to ensure consultations are targeted as effectively as possible including small businesses as appropriate. The Department has access to the Small Business Service to help identify appropriate small businesses.


Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Remploy employees have subsequently taken up jobs in the open labour market in each of the last 10 years. [143228]

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Maria Eagle: Each year Remploy helps disabled people, where appropriate, to progress to unsupported employment with a mainstream employer. Since the implementation of the company's modernisation strategy this has become a key element in its programme to support disabled people.

Progressions to open employment
2003–041,650 (target)


Figures for 1994–98 include people moving from Remploy Factories to supported employment with a mainstream employer. From 1998–99 onwards, figures relate only to the number of people working in the open labour market.


Remploy Audited Accounts

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the investment by Remploy in maintaining and upgrading exisiting sites, as specified in the Remploy 21 agreement. [143229]

Maria Eagle: Remploy 21 is the company's modernisation strategy to establish itself in businesses that mirror growth sectors of the economy. Since 2000, Remploy has moved from 36 disparate businesses mainly in traditional manufacturing to 10 competitive national businesses with an increasing focus on the service sector. To support this programme it has invested £4 million in the maintenance and upgrading of existing sites.

Remploy is in the process of surveying all sites as part of this activity; the expectation is that at least £1 million annually will be allocated to further site improvements.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the strategic decision by Remploy management to close owned factories and to move to leased units. [143230]

Maria Eagle: Remploy owns a significant majority of its factory sites and this will continue to be the case following the modernisation plans the Company currently considers necessary over the next few years. In the long-term, if Remploy were to carry out all potential relocation plans, they would have a total of 50 sites owned and 31 leased. In every case Remploy will consider upgrading the existing site, purchasing or building at a new site or leasing a site. Remploy has only entered into agreements to lease factory sites where it has made business sense.

Leased premises tend to be acquired for a minimum of 15 years and occasionally for longer periods. This is normal commercial practice and recognises that, because business requirements evolve over time, there must therefore be a corresponding ability to evolve the estates strategy to ensure that the facilities match business and learning objectives.

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The Company's approach to providing better and more modern facilities in Remploy locations is primarily to improve business opportunities that will in turn lead to more opportunities for growth in employment levels.

Since 2000, Remploy has invested in new or improved sites in Acton, Barnsley, Bradford, Gateshead, Lanarkshire, and North Staffordshire. There are also plans, some of which are already under way to replace existing facilities in Abertillery, Bristol, Holloway, Preston and St. Helens. All these sites are leased.

The above sites produced proceeds of sale of £5.7 million. At the same time, the Company invested £5.9 million on fitting out the replacement sites; consequently that has been a net outflow of investment. The majority of the sales proceeds arose from the sales of Acton and Bristol (£3.5 million of the £5.7 million) where there were opportunities to take advantage of site development potential. In other cases, the proceeds were very modest, reflecting the individual constraints of the existing site.

The Company's growth and investment plans are discussed with the Government on a regular basis. It should be noted that Remploy cannot sell a factory without securing the Government's approval. The Government will only agree to the sale where a case is presented which demonstrates the business sense of the proposal.

Standard Housing Allowance

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received regarding the introduction of a standard housing allowance; and if he will make a statement. [143835]

Mr. Pond: We consulted both formally and informally on the Government's proposals for a Local Housing Allowance.

The formal consultation exercise was conducted through the Social Security Advisory Committee. The Committee received 73 responses from both individuals and organisations with an interest in the Local Housing Allowance reforms. Our response is set out on the Command Paper 5955 which was presented to Parliament on 24 September 2003; a copy is in the Library.


Bed Blocking

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assistance his Department has given to social services departments to prepare for the commencement of fines for bed blocking. [144384]

Dr. Ladyman: In 2003–04 the Delayed Discharges Grant of £50.8 million means that social service departments will retain a proportion of the grant provided they improve the performance compared to levels of delay in March 2003. Additionally the Department has provided guidance, a dedicated website ( and an implementation team to support social services and national health service partners in preparing for charging for delayed discharges.

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Care Homes

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list those areas in which (a) there is a shortage of places in care homes at the price the local council wants to pay and (b) there are so many spare places available that a council can buy all the places it needs at a rate lower than the rate at which many providers wish to trade. [142968]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 9 December 2003]: I made this general statement based upon conversations my officials have had with some councils and independent providers. However, I would not be surprised if every council felt there was a shortage of places at the price they wanted to pay. And I would not be surprised if in every council area there are some providers who feel they are faced with a price that is below the level at which they wish to trade. Our aim must be to create a market place that is felt to be fair by commissioners and providers of services alike.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many self-funding residents were in (a) residential care homes and (b) nursing homes on the last date for which figures are available. [144292]

Dr. Ladyman: There were 42,000 self-funders receiving national health service-funded nursing care in nursing homes in England in December 2002. Further details can be found on the Department's website at: Information regarding the number of self-funders in residential care homes is not kept centrally.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average weekly cost to self-funding residents in residential care and nursing homes was in the last period for which figures are available. [144293]

Dr. Ladyman: Information regarding the average weekly cost to self-funding residents in residential and nursing homes is not kept centrally. Fees levels for self-funders are a matter negotiated between the care home and the individual requiring care, or their representive.

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