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11 Nov 2004 : Column 846W—continued

Council Tax

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the effect of council tax revaluation and regional banding on Harrogate district. [196740]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government have accepted the conclusion of the Balance of Funding Review that council tax should be retained but reformed. However, no decisions have yet been taken on what that reform should be. The Government looks to the Independent Inquiry, being undertaken by Sir Michael Lyons, to consider the detailed case for changes to the present system of local government funding, and to make recommendations on any changes that are necessary and how to implement them. This will include looking at how best to reform council tax, taking into account the revaluation in 2007 of English domestic property. Sir Michael is due to report by the end of 2005.

Claire Ward: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received from (a) Hertfordshire police authority and (b) other authorities within Hertfordshire on the capping of council tax; and if he will make a statement. [197138]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received representations from authorities in Hertfordshire in advance of the 2004–05 capping round, which has now been completed, but has not received representations about future capping action. However, I understand that Hertfordshire MPs have made representations to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, after having been contacted by Hertfordshire police authority.

Departmental Offices

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost of (a) decoration and (b) refurbishment of the London offices of the Department was in each of the last four years. [196145]

Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not retain details of redecoration costs. However the costs of any redecoration as part of a refurbishment project exceeding £15,000 will be included in the following figures.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was established in May 2002. Since that date the following has been spent on refurbishment of the London headquarters offices and the Government office for London.
Total (£)

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The figures provided, which exclude VAT, are gross expenditure and do not reflect receipts from other building occupants.

Although the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has overall responsibility for the buildings occupied by Government offices, they carry out functions on behalf of 10 Government Departments.

Departmental Policy (South Dorset)

Jim Knight: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to the South Dorset constituency, the effects of changes to departmental policy since 1997 on the South Dorset constituency. [194971]

Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy prime Minister is determined to develop to improve the lives of people across the UK, including the south-west.

In the local government finance settlements since the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister took office we have been able to increase the amount of government grant given to local authorities by £19.1 billion. This is a 30 per cent. increase in real terms and compares with a 7 per cent. cut in the previous four years before 1997–98.

The two local authorities in South Dorset have received average annual increases in formula grant since 1997 of 2.3 per cent. for Purbeck and 2.7 per cent. for Weymouth and Portland. Residents of South Dorset have also benefited from Dorset county council's increase in grant of 4.5 per cent.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is determined that everyone should have the opportunity to have a decent home. Where extra money is not required to achieve this, tenants can choose for their homes to remain under direct council management. Those local authorities requiring additional funding have three options; setting up an arm's length management organisation (ALMO), creating a private finance initiative (PFI) and transfer. This strategy has meant that in 2004 the number of social sector non-decent homes in England will have been reduced by 1 million.

Since 1997 Purbeck transferred a total of 1,622 dwellings of which 835 were non-decent, to Purbeck Housing Trust, an RSL. In the same period Weymouth and Portland has transferred 3,105 dwellings to Weymouth and Portland Housing RSL.

This year the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has provided £10.5 million in supporting people grant to Dorset county council to enable it to deliver housing related support services to vulnerable people in the area. Currently this provides over 7,000 units of support to a range of people, including homeless families, older people, people with learning disabilities and young people at risk.

The Neighbourhood Statistics Service provides a wide range of statistical information at parliamentary constituency level, taken from the 2001 Census and other sources. This service is available on the National Statistics website at http://neighbourhood.statistics.
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Deprived Wards (England)

Mr. Keith Bradley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the top 10 per cent. of the most deprived wards in England. [197546]

Phil Hope: It is not possible to list the top 10 per cent. of the most deprived wards in England. The IMD2004 is not based on wards but on a new geography called Super Output Areas (SOAs). These are geographical areas which are designed to be similar in size and consistent over time. They have a population of approximately 1,000 to 3,000 people. There are 32,482 SOAs in England. A list of the top 10 per cent. of these, i.e. the most deprived 3,248 SOAs, has been made available in the Library of the House.

East of England Assembly

Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has for holding a referendum on setting up a Regional Assembly in the East of England. [197873]

Mr. Raynsford: None.

Brownfield Land

Llew Smith: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the implications for the re-use of reclaimed brownfield land of the European Court of Justice case concerning the leakage of petrol from a petrol station involving the parties Texaco and Van de Walle. [194873]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

Judgments by the European Court of Justice are binding on member states and their "competent authorities". The Department is assessing the implications of the Court's judgment in Case C-1/03 for land affected by contamination and the remediation of such land. On conclusion of this assessment, I intend to publish a statement of the Department's views on the judgment's implications. I am not yet in a position to confirm when this will be but I recognise the need for our competent authorities and industry to be informed as soon as possible of our conclusions.

Energy Efficient Buildings (EU Directive)

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he will take to implement the EU Energy Performance in Buildings Directive requirement in relation to (a) combined heat and power and (b) district heating or cooling. [197348]

Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published on 21 July proposals for implementing these requirements as part of the revision of the Building Regulations energy efficiency provisions. The proposals can be inspected on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's web site, The consultation closed on 22 October and there has been a good response. This is now being considered by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee.

Fire Service

Mr. Mackay: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the (a) staff and (b) consultancy costs were of the
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(i) Fire Service Effectiveness Division, (ii) Fire Service Improvement Team and (iii) Fire Safety Legislation and Pensions Division from January 2002 to date. [196078]

Mr. Raynsford: These divisions were formed in June 2003 following publication of the White Paper, "Our Fire and Rescue Service". Figures from that date are:
(a) Staff costs
(i) Fire Service Effectiveness Division1,903
(ii) Fire Service Improvement Team2,088
(iii) Fire Safety Legislation and Pensions Division1,316
(b) Consultancy costs
(i) Fire Service Effectiveness Division13,446
(ii) Fire Service Improvement Team1,891
(iii) Fire Safety Legislation and Pensions Division119

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