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The Minister for Local and Regional Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford):
The Government are today announcing the allocation to administering authorities of £1.715 billion for the Supporting People programme in 200506. These grants are awarded to authorities to enable them to provide housing related services to over 1.2 million vulnerable people in our society.
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The Supporting People programme was successfully launched in April 2003. Since then authorities have made good progress in managing the programme but there is work still to do. Findings from an independent review, inspections by the Audit Commission, and other research work have shown that there are considerable opportunities for authorities to make efficiency savings in their programme and that some services are not delivering the quality of support that clients deserve.
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We are addressing these concerns by requiring authorities to complete reviews of individual services by April 2006 and ensure that these are value for money, good quality and strategically relevant. In partnership with local stakeholders, authorities are developing five-year strategies for their programmes and these will examine critically the services delivered and focus them on local need and strategic priorities.
Additionally, we are providing help and advice through capacity building programmes, and monitoring and support to authorities and providers. This includes projects to develop and disseminate best practice, a benchmarking programme, web-based support through hub services, and support to authorities struggling with their administration of the programme. We will also continue to work with authorities and providers to ensure that administration of the programme is effective and does not create unnecessary burdens.
As a preventive programme, Supporting People contributes to a range of key Government targets and objectives. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be working closely with colleagues across Government to ensure that the Supporting People programme is better integrated with other support packages.
Throughout 200506, we will be developing the monitoring arrangements for the programme including measuring performance against three key Supporting People performance indicators. We will use this data to establish baseline performance and will then look to authorities to deliver continued improvement in outcomes over time.
Early next year we will consult on the revised needs based distribution formula which will provide the basis for allocating Supporting People grant in the future. In the long run this could give rise to significant changes in current pattern of allocations between authorities and I recognise this cannot be achieved quickly. We have previously announced that under the Spending Review 2004 settlement the funding for Supporting People in 200607 and 200708 will be around £1.7 billion. To provide some further assurance to authorities about the pace of change I have decided that no authority should face a reduction of funding of more than 5 per cent. or an increase of more than 10 per cent. in either of these years.
This Government's on-going commitment to the Supporting People programme and our continued support to authorities and other stakeholders in the delivery of the programme will ensure the continued improvement in value for money and better use of resources in 200506 and beyond.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is also beginning today a consultation on the grant conditions for Supporting People in 200506, which we are proposing to keep broadly the same as 200405. The consultation ends on 11 February 2005. We are writing to local authorities to inform them of their allocations.
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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has today announced the following three-year settlement for the general GLA grant, which is provided by the Government to support the activities of the Mayor of London and Greater London Authority. This settlement reflects the overall 2004 spending review settlement for local government and in particular the requirement to generate efficiency savings of 2.5 per cent. per annum across the public sector. The actual grant will continue to be determined by the Secretary of State annually, in accordance with section 100 of the GLA Act 1999.
This is a very thorough and considered report which continues to build on the group's previous two annual reports. We commend the Independent Advisory Group for the notable contribution it has made since it was formed. We welcome the advisory group's acknowledgement of the significant progress made to date nationally, regionally and locally on implementing our teenage pregnancy strategy. We recognise that we are at a critical point of this 10-year strategy, the goals of which can only be achieved by sustaining the drive and energy we have demonstrated so far. Our continued commitment to addressing this key inequality and public health issue is signalled by our PSA jointly held with the Department of Health. Reducing teenage pregnancies and supporting young parents is central to our change for children programme with its aim of improving the life chances for all young people. The report contains eight recommendations on potential areas for further action. Each recommendation will receive our full and careful consideration and a detailed Government response will be published by March 2005.
The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley
): The joint DefraHM Treasury consultation "Developing Measures to Promote Catchment-Sensitive Farming" sought views on the broad possible approaches and measures (including regulatory, voluntary and economic measures) to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture. The
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consultation, which closed on 9 September 2004, stressed the need for action to further improve water quality and to help meet the requirements of domestic and international targets including the water framework directive. It also suggested that a package of different measures likely to be needed.
Respondents to the consultation expressed a variety of views across the range of possible measures. A detailed analysis of responses is available on the Defra website www.defra.gov.uk/. In brief: there was broad support for the concept of a package of measures; many respondents suggested a potential role for regulation as a means for targeting catchments that are particularly environmentally sensitive or where there is a particular problem from diffuse water pollution from agriculture; views were divided on the use of economic instruments; and voluntary and awareness-raising measures were generally strongly supported. The Government are today publishing a summary of responses to the consultation.
The Government, having carefully considered all consultation responses, have decided to continue to work with stakeholders to promote voluntary action on the ground, to increase awareness and to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, whilst continuing to refine the evidence base, for example to take into account the potential impacts of CAP reform. The Government will also continue to actively work with stakeholders in 2005 to develop an effective package of measures for tackling diffuse water pollution and will consult further on this in due course.
In developing policy options, we will be mindful of cumulative economic and administrative impacts on farmers and growers. Our aim is to keep any measures as light touch and as closely targeted as possible.
The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' 2004 Autumn Performance Report (Cm 6396), which highlights progress towards achieving the Department's outstanding Public Service Agreement targets since the publication of the Departmental Report in April, has been published today. Copies have been placed in both Libraries of the House.
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