|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Yvette Cooper: In England, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is conducting a review of Gypsy and Traveller policy, which will be concluded this summer. The Welsh Assembly are considering a report on service provision for Gypsies and Travellers and consulting on draft guidance on the management of Welsh unauthorised encampments.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many houses have been brought up to the Government's Decent Homes Standards by (a) registered social landlords, (b) arm's length management organisations, (c) councils and (d) the Public Finance Initiative since targets were fixed; and what proportion these numbers constitute of each sector's stock. 
Keith Hill: The data collected for each of the sectors shows reduction in non-decent homes not numbers of homes made decent. The data from local authorities and registered social landlords (RSL) returns based on 2003 out-turn and plans to March 2004 show that:
(a) RSLs have reduced the number of non-decent homes by 20,000 since April 2001. This includes the impact of the transfer on non-decent homes from local authorities.
(b) Arm's length management organisations (ALMOs) have reduced the number by 30,000. This covers the 19 ALMOs that have received their additional resources. The first ALMOs that passed inspection started operations in November 2002.
(c) Non-decent stock in local authority management between 2001 and 2004 has reduced by 350,000.
(d) Work under the first Public Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes only started in July 2003. Data are not yet available on progress.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what percentage of families with disabled children received assistance from statutory agencies in order to address their housing needs in the latest period for which figures are available; 
(2) which Government agency has lead responsibility for assessing the housing needs of disabled children; 
(3) what plans are in place to improve the provision of housing to families with disabled children; 
(4) what plans he has to abolish the disabled facilities grant means test for children; 
(5) if he will make a statement on the fairness of the disabled facilities grant means test, The Test of Resources for children; 
(6) what assessment he has made of whether the current Test of Resources for disabled children encourages parents to work; 
(7) what progress the Government has made in reviewing the disabled facilities grant programmes and its means test. 
Yvette Cooper: Statistics on the percentage of families with disabled children who received assistance from statutory agencies to address their housing needs are not collected centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The Government have a number of policy initiatives designed to increase the supply of accessible housing including the provision of suitable housing to families with a disabled child. All newly built homes are required to comply with "Part M" of the building regulations. These provisions are expected to enable occupants to cope better with reduced mobility. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced earlier this year that we will carry out a further review of Part M, with the aim of incorporating Lifetime Home standards for accessibility into the Building Regulations.
Furthermore, in relation to new social housing, the Government requires that all schemes funded through the Housing Corporation comply not only with the Building Regulations, but also with additional criteria for accessibility and internal environments set out in the Corporation's scheme development standards. Reforms of the planning system are also seeking to address issues of access and inclusion. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill introduces a statutory requirement for those responsible for preparing regional spatial strategies and local development documents in England to undertake these functions with the objective of
19 May 2004 : Column 1050W
contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. Our consultation draft of Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) makes it crystal clear that development plans should contain clear and comprehensive inclusive access policies.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not only taking action to improve accessibility in relation to new developments. We have also substantially increased Government resources available to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) scheme to help with adaptations to the existing housing stock to meet the needs of disabled people. Since 1997, Government funding for DFGs has nearly doubled, rising to £100 million a year. This year, over 33,000 homes will be adapted to meet the needs of disabled people through the programmea 50 per cent. increase on 199798. The 1996 report into the Evaluation of the DFG system published by the Department of the Environment showed that 5 per cent. of all successful DFG applicants were parents with a disabled child.
The Government announced a review of the operation of the DFG programme on 5 January 2004. In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Baroness Wilkins, Lord Rooker in the House of Lords said that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, jointly with the Department of Health will be reviewing the disabled facilities grant programme, including the operation of the means test, in the context of the Spending Review 2004.
This Review is now under way and will include an assessment of the equity of the DFG means test as it affects applications from families with a disabled child and any disincentive effect of the test on a parent's decision to work. The conclusions of this review will be announced by the end of 2004.
(2) what plans he has to abolish means testing of the disabled facilities grant; 
(3) if he will raise the level of the maximum grant in order to compensate for any loss incurred through the operation of the means test for the disabled facilities grant. 
Yvette Cooper: The Government announced a review of the operation of the disabled facilities grant programme on 5 January 2004. In answer to a parliamentary question from my noble Friend Baroness Wilkins, my right hon. Friend Lord Rooker in the Other Place said that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, jointly with the Department of Health will be reviewing the disabled facilities grant programme, in the context of the Spending Review 2004, House of Lords, Official Report, columns 14. A number of financial and policy issues affecting the programme, including the operation of the means test and the maximum grant limit will be evaluated.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent representations he has received from fire and rescue authorities concerning the administrative costs of dealing with the paperwork generated by the contravention by their vehicles on emergency calls of speed limits captured on speed cameras. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government achieved its target of reducing the council house repairs backlog by at least 900,000 properties by April; and what the estimated number of council house properties suffering from a backlog of repair was on 1 April. 
Keith Hill: Progress against this target is monitored using the English House Condition Survey. The first results from the continuous survey are due to be published later this year, with the assessment of the stock at April 2004 due to be published in 2005.
Progress against this target is closely linked to progress against the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's decent homes Public Service Agreement (PSA) target. Local authority returns on decent homes indicate that we may achieve this target later in 2004, rather than the original date of April 2004
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when local authorities were allowed to raise resources against their assets and the income stream to improve the quality of their housing. 
Keith Hill: From 1 April this year, local authorities have been free to borrow for capital projects, such as housing improvement, without Government consent, provided that they can afford to service the debt from their revenue resources. They remain prohibited from offering their assets as security for loans.
The current role of the Community Housing Task Force (CHTF) is to lead the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's work on options appraisal. The CHTF offers free, 'hands-on' advice to local authorities who are going through the process, and this advice continues when an authority decides on, and progresses with, any one or more of the options available to them. The Task Force advisers check
19 May 2004 : Column 1052W
proposals at key stages, assist with the development and sharing of good practice, and offer support to allow tenants and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions on the future of their housing stock.
The CHTF has never had a formalised mission statement. However, on the front of all CHTF publications there is a quote from the Head of CHTF, which adequately describes the main ethos and aims of the division. This reads as follows:
"The CHTF is dedicated to ensuring that the Decent Homes target is met. We will work closely with local authorities and tenants from the beginning of the Option Appraisal process to develop the most appropriate option for them. The end result must be sustainable communities where people want to live."
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his estimate is of the total amount of debt write-off (a) involved in housing transfers in 200405 and (b) actually paid out in 200304; how this is to be funded; and by what Department this is to be funded. 
Keith Hill: It is estimated that if all housing transfers currently estimated to transfer in 200405 secure a positive ballot and transfer this financial year then the 200405 Office provision for making overhanging debt payments of £616 million would be used in full. £90.9 million was paid to the Public Works Loans Board in 200304. The resources used to make overhanging debt payments are part of the Office's Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) and are outside the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL). The payment reflects the continuing liability the Office would otherwise have to pay subsidy on a local authority's housing attributable debt. It is not possible to use this resource for capital purposes.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) whether his officials vet the promises made by housing associations on transfer proposals; whether offer documents are standardised; and how his officials ensure delivery of the promises; 
(2) whether the Community Housing Task Force supplies (a) templates and (b) drafts of offer documents to housing associations; and how they advise councils on housing privatisation proposals. 
Keith Hill: It is for Authorities and Registered Social Landlords to develop any transfer proposal with tenants and other stakeholders. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will ensure that these comply with the Housing Transfer Programme criteria.
The Housing Transfer Manual 2003 Programme gives guidance on how to prepare the formal consultation document. It advises authorities to take into account specific local circumstances. The Community Housing Task Force discuss the developments of the proposal and the engagement of all stakeholders. They neither supply a template for nor draft the offer document.
Both transferring authorities and receiving Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) will be required to fulfil annual performance monitoring and evaluation requirements by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Housing Corporation. The exact set of indicators that authorities and RSLs will be asked to
19 May 2004 : Column 1053W
provide will be finalised after a piloting exercise has been undertaken. Authorities and RSLs will be provided with information and support to assist them in completing their returns. This framework applies to all transfers from the 2001 programme onwards.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether civil servants in his Department are allowed to (a) campaign for large scale voluntary transfer proposals and (b) advise councils on how to win tenant support in ballots. 
Keith Hill: Officials in the Office's Community Housing Task Force are there to provide advice and support to all stakeholders in the transfer process so they can develop housing transfer proposals that maximise the potential benefits in conjunction with the policy guidance contained in the Housing Transfer Manual 2003 Programme.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what percentage of tenants eligible to vote, voted (a) for and (b) against transfer in this year's ballots on (i) large-scale voluntary transfers and (ii) arm's length management organisations. 
|Local authority||Potential votes||Turnout (%)||In favour (%)||Not in favour (%)|
|Manchester (Woodhouse Park)||2,741||78.5||92.7||7.3|
|North East Lincolnshire||9,735||64.87||67.26||32.74|
|Local authority||Potential votes||Turnout (%)||In favour (%)||Not in favour (%)|
|Almo Round 3|
|Sheffield: Hillsborough, Nether Thorpe||5,606||45||87||13|
|Sheffield: Parson Cross, Foxhill, Longley||10,854||38||94||6|
|Sheffield: Westfield, Hackenthorpe||7,851||43||89||11|
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|