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29 Jun 2004 : Column 231W—continued


John McDonnell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures have been introduced to verify the claims of local authorities for planning delivery grant. [180982]

Keith Hill: In 2004–05 Planning Delivery Grant (PDG) allocations to local authorities consisted of the following elements; development control performance, plan making performance, housing delivery performance, location of Enterprise Areas.

The development control element of the grant is based on local authority performance in determining planning applications, recorded as Best Value Performance Indicator (BVPI) 109. There is an annual independent audit of BVPI 109 overseen by the Audit Commission. Where there are any doubts about the reliability of the information this will be investigated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
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The plan making element of the grant is allocated on the basis of information provided by local authorities. These responses are then verified by the relevant Government Office.

The housing delivery element of the grant is allocated on the basis of the annual average delivery of additional dwellings net of demolitions and other losses, based on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's independent analysis of returns from local authorities and Regional Planning Body data.

The allocation on account of Enterprise Areas within an authority's boundary is a factual allocation and is based on information held by Planning and Land Use Statistics division of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Abatements are made where local authorities' performance at appeal is poor. The information to determine this is provided by the Planning Inspectorate.

In cases where there are concerns about the accuracy of information used for grant allocation, 10 per cent. of the allocation may be withheld, pending further investigation. Where information is subsequently shown to be fraudulent or erroneous the repayment of grant paid may be required.

John McDonnell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which local authorities have been found to have failed to comply with the procedures established for the award of planning delivery grant. [180983]

Keith Hill: One local authority notified the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that the information used to allocate the authority's award for plan making performance was incorrect. This was because of an administrative error by the authority. Following this notification the authority's entitlement for plan making was re-calculated.

In 2002–03, the most recent year for which figures are available 32 local planning authorities BVPI 109 returns were qualified by the auditor. In these cases the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has withheld 10 per cent. of any Planning Delivery Grant (PDG) allocation made on account of development control performance pending further investigation. Authorities have been asked to explain the reason for the qualification, what they have done to address the identified problem and to provide an assessment of the likely impact of the identified problem on submitted performance statistics. Authorities have been informed that this process could lead to payment, in part or in full, of any withheld grant or to my demanding repayment, in part or in full of any grant paid on account of development control performance. It would not be appropriate to name the authorities involved as the investigation is ongoing. It is anticipated that this process will be completed and final decisions taken on authorities' grant entitlement by the end of the summer.

Charles Hendry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what discussions he has had with representatives of local authorities on speculative land plots; [181315]

(2) whether his Department collects central records of Article 4 notices issued by local authorities to remove land development rights; and if he will make a statement; [181322]
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(3) what his Department's policy is on speculative land plots; [181325]

(4) what representations he has received on speculative land plots; and if he will make a statement. [181326]

Keith Hill: Officials of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister held a meeting with representatives of interested local authorities on 31 October last year, and another on 11 June, to discuss their concerns. The effectiveness of existing controls, such as Article 4 directions, and possible further controls were considered. Records on Article 4 directions are not held centrally.

I refer the hon. Member to the written statement given on 19 April 2004, Official Report, column 2WS on the subdivision of agricultural land. An advice letter to Chief Planning Officers was also issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on that day.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has received a number of letters on this topic. They relate mainly to the unsightly visual consequences of the subdivision of fields.

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 19 April 2004, Official Report, column 366W, on regional assemblies, what the total cost of the entertainment of stakeholders, journalists and other non-governmental individuals undertaken as part of the 'Your Say' information campaign on elected regional assemblies is; and what the value is of each transaction made under the budget allotted to other expenses. [181457]

Mr. Raynsford: I will write to the hon. Member once the information is collated and I will make a copy of the letter available in the Library of the House.



Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of proposals for paying a wage for carers. [180556]

Maria Eagle: The answer the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State my hon. Friend the member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) gave my hon. Friend on 16 June 2004, Official Report, column 1019W, explained the Government's position on support for carers. We have no plans to introduce a carer's wage.

Job Seekers (Coventry)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps the Government have taken to promote job seeking services in the constituency of Coventry, South since 1997. [180353]

Jane Kennedy: Jobcentre Plus is working with local community organisations and local employers to promote and increase job seeking services in Coventry, South. These local initiatives work alongside and add value to our national programmes like New Deal.
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The New Deal has clearly been a great success—helping well over a million people to find work nationally, including over 1,700 people in Coventry, South. We are building on this foundation of success, opening up more opportunities for people to find work. The New Deal has helped reduce youth unemployment, long-term unemployment and the number of lone parents dependent on benefits.

The development of Jobcentre Plus is building on the high quality service already provided by social security offices and Jobcentres by delivering a single, integrated service to all people of working age, with a clear focus on work.

Jobcentre Plus provides high quality services to employers, helping them to fill job vacancies quickly and effectively with well-prepared and motivated employees.

Local initiatives include progress2work, helping people with drug problems to overcome them and lead healthy and productive lives and making sure that local drug treatment and local employment services are joined up effectively. The Step Up pilot programme, covering a number of wards in Coventry, South, is working to help the long-term unemployed move from benefits into work and the local Outreach service is using innovative and community based ways to help ethnic minority people overcome the barriers they face in the labour market.

Jobcentre Plus is also working with the new Arena Development to ensure that the 3,500 new job opportunities it is creating are being made available to local communities. For example, the Arena Jobs-bus, a feature of this partnership initiative, has visited locations in the constituency, such as St. Michaels, Canley and Westwood to bring information on the jobs available to peoples doorsteps.

Liaison with local employers has resulted in the establishment of the Construction Employment Unit. Based at Tile Hill Jobcentre Plus, it offers unemployed people the chance to work in the local construction industry and is providing paid training.

As a result of these initiatives, the employment level in Coventry, South has risen by 11.4 per cent. since 1997 and the claimant unemployment level has dropped by 37 per cent. over the same period.

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