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23 Feb 2004 : Column 327W—continued

Decent Homes Standard

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assistance is available to local authority housing departments to meet the Government's decent homes standard. [155118]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has provided both financial and other support to assist local authorities in delivering decent homes. Over the period 2003–06 £7.9 billion is available for capital expenditure on the HRA housing stock.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is also making available £1.4 billion through the Private Finance Initiative Guidance on implementing the standard and conducting options appraisals has also been published on; housing/documents/page/odpm house 027345.pdf

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's "Community Housing Task Force" together with Government Offices for the Regions are currently working with local authorities to help them develop their options appraisals.

This process is designed to help the authority put in place a plan that will deliver decent homes.

Departmental Information

Mr. Curry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the information and public relations campaigns conducted by (a) non-departmental bodies and (b) executive agencies within his Department in each year since 1997, showing the annual cost of each campaign. [146024]

Yvette Cooper: Information on public relations and information campaigns run by the non departmental bodies and executive agencies of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Empty Houses

Chris Ruane: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many (a) empty houses and (b) homeless people there are in each local authority area, listed in descending order according to the number of empty houses. [153597]

Yvette Cooper: Latest available information, as reported by local authorities in England, is available in the Library of the House. For corresponding information in Wales, I refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain).

Expenditure Limits

Matthew Green: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list his Department's departmental expenditure limits for 2003–04. [150101]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made on 27 November 2003, Official Report, column 3WS.

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Fire Authorities/ Services

Gregory Barker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether combined fire authorities in their first year as precepting authorities will have the costs of transition taken into account when their budget is assessed. [154552]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government recognises fire authorities' concerns about setting budgets for next year, not least the particular circumstances faced by Combined Fire Authorities in their move to precepting status, including the pressure arising from the need to build up reserves.

Nonetheless, the Government remains of the view that all authorities, including Combined Fire Authorities, should be seeking to minimise council tax increases. The Government will, if necessary, use its capping powers to deal with unacceptable increases.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action his Department has taken to ensure that the changes in locations of fire service control rooms do not impact on response times. [155441]

Mr. Raynsford: The location of a fire and rescue command and control room does not impact on response times. Service standards for the new regional control rooms will at a minimum be equal to present practice.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the guidance provided to the committees of regional fire authorities regarding the regionalisation of Fire Service control rooms. [155812]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government have said they accept the conclusions of Mott MacDonald report, on the "Future of Fire and Rescue Service Control Rooms in England and Wales", publishedin December 2003. It believes that control rooms at regional level are appropriate for reasons of efficiency, economy, effectiveness and resilience. It is considering the views of the Practitioners' Forum, authorities and the service on the conclusions of the report and the Government's response. Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House.

Grant Calculations

Mr. Luff: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he has established a timetable for consultation on future changes to the (a) formula spending share calculation and (b) area cost adjustment to enable such changes to be made in financial year 2006–07. [155146]

Mr. Raynsford: In order to provide local authorities with more stability in funding arrangements, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has already said that we will not be looking to change the grant distribution formulae until 2006–07 at the very earliest.

If it is decided that changes to the formulae should be made for 2006–07, a full consultation on options for change would take place prior to the normal settlement round for that year.

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High Hedges

Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what consultation he has undertaken prior to issuing guidance on the high hedges section of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. [153108]

Yvette Cooper: Consultation will begin shortly on guidance and on regulations governing certain detailed procedural arrangements relating to the high hedges section of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. The regulations will be laid before Parliament in time for the legislation to come into force towards the end of 2004.


Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the research commissioned by the Homelessness Directorate on homelessness among people from black and ethnic minority communities. [152026]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned research on homelessness among black and ethnic minority communities in February 2003. The research consisted of a literature review, interviews with Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) households, local authority officers and a range of other key national and local stakeholders in order to explore the causes of homelessness and to provide best practice guidance on the most appropriate interventions for tackling and preventing homelessness among different BME groups.

A first draft report and guidance have been produced for further discussion with a range of key stakeholders and we expect to have a final version ready for publication in three to four months time. When published, copies of both documents will be made available in the Library of the House.

Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will publish the results of the annual return supplied by local authorities on homelessness applications by couples with dependent children; [152429]

Yvette Cooper: Two key summary tables, based on data from the 2003 annual homelessness return, have been made available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website. A hard copy has been made available in the Library of the House. These include an analysis of homeless households accepted by local authorities, broken down by region and household type, distinguishing couples with dependent children and lone-parent families. Information collected about homeless applications on both the annual and quarterly homelessness returns distinguishes ethnicity, but not household type.

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Further key analyses from the annual return are being prepared and will be placed on the website once finalised.

Housing Taskforces

Mr. Randall: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the Community Housing Task Force last met. [155799]

Keith Hill: The Community Housing Task Force generally meets up once a month to discuss and update on progress of work. The team last met on 4 February and will meet again on 1 March.

Mr. Randall: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the Advisory Group on Home Buying Taskforce (a) last met and (b) produced its last report; and when he expects it to be wound up. [155800]

Yvette Cooper: The Home Ownership Task Force has completed its work. The Task Force met for the last time on 30 September 2003 and its final report "A home of my own" was published on 13 November 2003. Copies of the report and executive summary are available on the Housing Corporation's website at www.

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