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7 Sept 2004 : Column 1173W—continued

Non-domestic Rates

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 1 March 2004, Official Report, column 753W, on the non-domestic rate pool, whether (a) the police and (b) other agencies in Gloucestershire were allocated funding from non-domestic rates in 2003–04. [186327]

Mr. Raynsford: Distributions from the non-domestic rate pool are currently based on population and the services which a local authority is responsible for. The national amount per head for 2003–04 was £317.1934786, and the relevant population of Gloucestershire for the 2003–04 Local Government Finance Settlement was 565,000. The resulting total of £179,214,316 from the non-domestic rate pool for the Gloucestershire area was allocated between the Gloucestershire billing and precepting authorities as follows:
Gloucestershire County Council151,436,097
Gloucestershire Police Authority8,064,644
Cheltenham Borough Council3,839,576
Cotswold District Council2,804,945
Forest of Dean District Council2,792,873
Gloucester City Council3,836,122
Stroud District Council3,770,422
Tewkesbury Borough Council2,669,637

The Fire Authorities in shire areas were not precepting authorities in 2003–04 and so did not receive a share of the non-domestic rate pool in that year. No other agencies in Gloucestershire received a share of the £179,214,316 for the Gloucestershire area.

One North East

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the value of assets transferred from One North East to the partnership with UK Land Estates was; and what the (a) cost and (b) source of the advice obtained by One North East before the sale was. [186846]

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Keith Hill: The assets transferred (as disclosed in the Agency's 2003–04 accounts as a post balance sheet event) were valued at £122 million.

The cost of advice sought was £2.2 million.

The main costs can be broken down as follows:
1. Legal advice970
2. Property Consultant costs544
3. Surveying costs515
4. Accounting, tax and other technical advice160

Specialist advice was received from Eversheds (Legal), King Sturge (Property Specialists), PriceWaterhouseCoopers (Tax) and PartnershipsUK (more General advice).

Parliamentary Questions

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will reply to the Question tabled by the hon. Member for Meriden on 21 June, reference 180362, on refurbishment of buildings. [186418]

Phil Hope: A reply was given to the hon. Member on 13 August 2004.

PFI/PPP Contracts

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many contracts his Office had with (a) Barclays, (b) the Royal Bank of Scotland, (c) UBS Warburg, (d) the Bank of Scotland, (e) PriceWaterhouseCoopers, (f) Deloitte and Touche, (g) KPMG and (h) Ernst & Young for advice on private finance initiative and public private partnership contracts in each financial year since 2001–02; and what fees were paid in each case. [186695]

Mr. Raynsford: Since 2001–02, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has had two contracts, one with Ernst & Young and the other with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, both in 2003–04. Ernst & Young was paid £62,734 excluding VAT to review the Fire and Rescue Service private finance initiative programme.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers carried out work on the Housing Private Finance Initiative Procurement Pack. The Housing Procurement Pack was jointly procured with the 4Ps, (Public Private Partnerships Programme) an agency of the Local Government Association set up to provide advice to local authorities on PPP/PFIs. The total fee paid was £57,486 excluding VAT. 50 per cent. of the fees paid by the Office will be recovered from the 4Ps.


Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will require a start on works to activate a time-limited planning approval to represent at least a quarter of the development; and if he will make a statement. [186980]

Keith Hill: Under section 56 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a variety of works is held to constitute the start of development. A material change of use of land may also indicate that development
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has started, provided the change is related to the development. There are no plans to amend the law in the manner suggested.

Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the minimum requirement of works commenced is for a time-limited planning approval to be activated; and if he will make a statement. [186981]

Keith Hill: The activities that may indicate that a planning permission has begun to be implemented include: any work of construction; demolition of a building on the site; the digging of a trench to contain foundations; the laying of any underground main or pipe to the foundations; laying out an access road; and any material change in the use of the land. The full list is in section 56 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the revised Planning Policy Guidance, PPG22, on renewable energy will be published; and if he will make a statement. [186557]

Keith Hill: Planning policy statement 22 (PPS22) on renewable energy was published on 9 August 2004. Copies of the document are available in the Libraries of the House and have been sent out to all planning authorities in England.

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) when the Government will publish good practice guidance for local authorities and developers on the planning obligations; [187150]

(2) when the Government plan to issue a revised circular on planning obligations. [187175]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister aims to publish a Good Practice Guide on planning obligations in early 2005, alongside a new circular on planning obligations. A draft of the new circular is to be issued for consultation in the autumn.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is also continuing work on developing proposals for an optional planning charge, so that decisions on implementation can be made in the context of the Chancellor's decision on a Planning Gain Supplement at the end of 2005.

Jim Knight: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many local authorities have conducted needs assessments on sport, recreation and open space facilities as required by Planning Policy Guidance Note 17. [187383]

Keith Hill: PPG17 was published in July 2002. An assessment of its implementation and effectiveness will be undertaken as part of the normal policy review process within five years of publication.

The collection of regular statistics on the implementation of specific national planning policies could be attained only at disproportionate cost. However, Government offices do scrutinise statutory development plans for compliance with national policies before these plans are adopted.

Under the new planning system local development frameworks must be supported by an evidence base comprising data such as that required by PPG17. Where
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this evidence falls short of such a requirement, inspectors could rule at public examination that the plan did not meet the test of soundness. Subsequently authorities' annual monitoring reports which will report upon policy performance, will also provide a mechanism by which Government offices can assess whether PPG 17 requirements continue to be met.

Postal Voting

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how he assessed the (a) support for and (b) problems of all postal voting in (i) the North East, (ii) the North West and (iii) Yorkshire and the Humber. [186997]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government listened to the concerns raised in the Commons debates on 19 and 21 July about whether we should go ahead with referendums in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. In light of these, the Government decided to proceed with the referendum in the North East, subject to the Electoral Commission's report. The Government also decided to reschedule referendums in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber once we had considered the report prepared by the Electoral Commission. This report was published on 27 August.

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to prevent the postal vote problems in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber from appearing in the North East. [186998]

Mr. Raynsford: The rules for the North East referendum were approved by Parliament in July. The administration of the North East referendum is for the Chief Counting Officer, Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Sunderland city council and for the local counting officers.

The Electoral Commission published their report into the June electoral pilots on 27 August and has said:

In reaching this conclusion the Electoral Commission highlighted the desirability of avoiding late changes in a process already approved by Parliament, and a number of additional factors specific to the North East referendum, as follows:

Voters and election professionals in the North East have substantial previous experience of all-postal ballots.

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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is considering the Electoral Commission's report and will make a statement to Parliament about the implications for the regional referendums soon.

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