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19 Jan 2004 : Column 1081W—continued

Pension Credit Helpline

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many calls were received by the pension credit helpline in the most recent month for which figures are available. [148971]

Malcolm Wicks: The Pension Credit application line received approximately 193,900 calls in December 2003.

Pensions (Order Book Payments)

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements were made for pensioners with order books whose pension fell due on Christmas Day 2003; and when they were able to receive that payment. [148970]

Mr. Pond: The arrangements agreed with the Post Office for Christmas Day 2003, gave pensioners (women aged 60 and over, men aged 65 and over) the option of encashing the order book payments dated 25 December,

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up to a week early, (i.e., on or after 18 December). Post Office were open for normal business hours, up to and including 12.30 p.m. on 24 December.

Pensions (Warrington, North)

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Warrington North have (a) applied for and (b) been awarded the pension credit; and what the average increase in income is per pensioner. [148250]

Malcolm Wicks: At 31 December 2003 there were 3,426 pensioner households (4,151 individuals) in the Warrington North constituency receiving pension credit. Information on the number of pension credit applications in individual constituencies is not available. The average weekly rate of pension credit awards in Warrington North is £41.19. Information on the average amount gained by pensioners in individual constituencies, since the introduction of pension credit, will become available following publication of the November 2003 Quarterly Statistical Enquiry on 17 March 2004.

Winter Fuel Payments

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has spent on advertising the availability of Winter Fuel Payments. [147771]

Malcolm Wicks: In the region of £625,000 was spent on national and regional press and consumer magazine advertising throughout the 2003–04 Winter Fuel Payments campaign.

A wide variety of publicity in other forums was also undertaken to support this advertising.

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what studies his Department undertook to find the most effective way of informing people about their eligibility for Winter Fuel Payments. [147772]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department uses a wide range of research on how to reach older people when formulating its communication strategies.

We develop communications in partnership with representative groups such as Age Concern, National Pensioners Convention and Citizens Advice. We have built on our experiences from past years of paying Winter Fuel Payments using communication channels appropriate to our customers.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Scotland are (a) eligible for the £300 winter fuel payment for the over eighties and (b) have received it this winter. [148753]

Malcolm Wicks: Analysis of payments made this winter is not yet available and therefore it is not possible to say how many payments were made to households including someone aged 80 or over. Nor have we data to establish how many households include someone who is aged 80 or over and would be eligible for a winter fuel payment of £300.

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Thames Gateway

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress since the announcement of the Thames Gateway Communities plan; how much public money has been spent; how much private sector capital has been committed; how much land has been acquired; how much land will be acquired; and over what timescale. [148199]

Yvette Cooper: I am pleased to be able to report substantial progress in the Thames Gateway even since my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham announcement in July.

Delivery is the key to the Thames Gateway. The new UDC for Thurrock is now established and Chair and Board appointed, consultation on the London UDC will end on 6 February and new partnership bodies for the other growth areas in the Gateway are now in place. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects the new Gateway Office to be operational shortly.

The Thames Gateway expenditure programme provides £446 million over the three years commencing 2003—4. Projects worth £330 million have been accepted in principle for funding, and some £50 million worth of projects have been formally approved. These range from land acquisitions in London's Lower Lea valley, to affordable housing schemes with the Housing Corporation, a new lifelong learning centre for Barking, University campus expansions at Southend and Medway, and environmental Green Grid initiatives across South Essex and North Kent. In addition to this, the Regional Development Agencies, English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation and Highways Agency are also undertaking projects which make a major contribution to the Gateway, including Barking Reach, Chatham Maritime, A 13 improvements and anew Swale Crossing.

Outline planning applications have been submitted for the key private sector developments at Stratford City and Ebbsfleet. These schemes alone represent private sector investment approaching £7 billion.

The Strategic Rail Authority confirmed shortly before Christmas that it will be proceeding with plans for domestic services on the Channel Tunnel Rail link as part of the new Integrated Kent Franchise, and more recently, my right hon. Friend Member for Edinburgh Central, has announced that he is offering financial support for the Thames Gateway Bridge, the proposed new river crossing in East London. Both are strategic projects which will strengthen the platform for new development, and will help to consolidate private sector confidence and involvement.

There are no targets for land acquisition in the Gateway; the need for land assembly by the public sector will be determined by market strength and interest. To date, funding from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister budget for land acquisitions is being pursued for projects in the Lower Lea for new mixed-use development, and in Sheppy, to promote new housing.

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many houses have been built under plans for the development of the Thames Gateway communities; how many are social housing; how many houses are planned to be built; and how many will be social housing. [148201]

Yvette Cooper: The Government's policy for the development of sustainable communities in Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas was set out in "Creating Sustainable Communities: Making It Happen" in July 2003. The most recent annual house building figures for local authority areas contained within the Thames Gateway are for the 2002–03 financial year. Local authorities and the national house building council report a total new build of 7,865 houses for this period, of which 1,077 are social housing. It should be noted that these figures are totals for local authorities in Thames Gateway, but that some local authority areas fall only partially within the designated Thames Gateway region.

"Creating Sustainable Communities: Making It Happen" set a target for the Thames Gateway of the development of 120,000 new homes over the period to 2016, which is 40,000 above current planning targets. Projects worth £300 million were approved in July as part of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's new Sustainable Communities funding package. These include funding for new affordable housing.

The Government do not set annual targets centrally for local authorities on either affordable or social housing. Planning policies for affordable housing are set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 3, "Housing", and in Circular 6/98, "Planning for Affordable Housing". They advise that where local planning authorities are able to demonstrate a lack of affordable housing to meet local needs, based on up-to-date surveys and other data, they should indicate in their local plan how many affordable homes need to be provided throughout the plan area, and set indicative targets for specific suitable sites (expressed either as numbers of homes or a percentage of the homes on the site). Local planning authorities should be monitoring their performance against their local plan policies and targets, but this information is not collected centrally.

Arms Length Management Organisations

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much has been set aside for the funding of newly constituted arms length management organisations for (a) 2003–04 and (b) 2004–05. [148730]

Yvette Cooper: Allocations for Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) are made in two-year tranches. £300 million has been allocated to eight local authorities setting up ALMOs under Round 1 of the programme for 2002–04, £383 million to 12 local authorities under Round 2 for 2003–05, and £360 million to 13 authorities under Round 3 for 2004–06. Allocations for Round 1 ALMOs for 2004–05 and later have yet to be decided.

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will publish the results of the arms length management organisation ballots in those local authorities where votes have taken place this year. [148731]

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Yvette Cooper: The results of ballots on Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) proposals held to date by local authorities awarded places on Round 3 of the ALMO programme in 2003, or applying for places on Round 4 in 2004, are tabled as follows. The results of ballots held under Rounds 1 and 2 were given in my reply to the hon. Member for Colchester on 15 September 2003, Official Report, column 602W.


Local authorityTurnoutIn favourNot in favour
ALMO Round 3
High Peak60982
Sheffield: Brightside and Shiregreen427822
Sheffield: Central Area478713
South Lakeland658812
ALMO Round 4
Hammersmith and Fulham408119

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