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19 Jan 2004 : Column 1099W—continued

Unfit Housing

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assistance is available for repairing structurally unfit houses owned by the (a) elderly and (b) disabled; and if he will make a statement. [148236]

Yvette Cooper: Local authorities have wide ranging powers under the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2004 to provide assistance for the repair, improvement or adaptation of any living accommodation in their area. Such assistance, which can be made available at the discretion of the authority, may be in any form, for example by way of a grant, loan or loan guarantee, and can be provided either directly by the council or through a third party. The Order provides that before using these powers the local authority must publish a policy setting out the range of assistance that they will make available.

Funding for this assistance is available from an authority's single capital housing pot and in 2002–03 total local authority expenditure in England on housing renewal grants (excluding disabled facilities grant) was £259 million.

Water Supply

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what additional water supply infrastructure is likely to be required for the additional homes proposed for the Thames Gateway up to 2016. [149184]

Yvette Cooper: Each water supply company produces a water resources plan that looks forward 25 years. The companies update their plans annually, which are then reviewed by the Environment Agency for consistency with its national and regional water resources strategies. The companies serving the Thames Gateway need firm estimates of growth to enable them to identify new water supply and disposal infrastructure requirements and factor these in to their business plans. Companies are therefore working in close liaison with local and regional planners and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to establish both infrastructure requirements and the scope for achieving water efficiency savings in the new homes through sustainable development. A summary of their final investment plans will be available in late April, but these will cover investment required to meet the totality of demand forecast in their areas not just that which is within the Thames Gateway.

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West Midlands Regional Planning

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he plans to publish the final version of the West Midlands Regional Planning Guidance. [148014]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently considering responses to the public consultation on my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister's Proposed Changes to Draft Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) for the West Midlands. We hope to publish the final RPG in the spring this year.

Wychavon District Council

Mr. Luff: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what account he took, in setting the revenue support grant for Wychavon District Council for 2004–05, of cost pressures on the council flowing from (a) administering the new local plan, (b) implementing the law on high hedges, (c) administering the Supporting People programme, (d) deregulation of building control services, (e) ending of Market Towns Initiative funding, (f) ending of Local Government On-Line funding and (g) compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000; [146549]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's proposals for the funding of local authority revenue spending in 2004–05 take into account the cost pressures and new burdens on local government identified with the Local Government Association in the context of the Spending Review 2002, which set the spending plans up to 2005–06. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has added to those totals to reflect additional pressures and new burdens since the announcement of Spending Review 2002. Additionally, Wychavon District Council has received specific grants for certain items identified by the hon. Member, for example from the Waste Recycling Challenge Fund.

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The Government's proposals for 2004–05 provide for an increase in total general grant of £2.4 billion or 5.5 per cent. Wychavon District Council would receive an increase of £5.6 million or 4.2 per cent. on a like-for-like basis compared with 2003–04.

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Most Government funding to local authorities is paid through general grant and is for councils to allocate in line with their statutory duties, their priorities and the wishes of their electorate.