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Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons the contract award announcement in respect of the Firelink Radio System was not made in November; and when he expects it to be made. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Firelink contract award announcement was postponed following a detailed assessment of the technical and commercial matters to be resolved before the conclusion of negotiations. The contract award date the project is working to is May 2005.
Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport concerning the savings achieved by English Heritage in abandoning a structure based on the Government office regions and instead adopting four territories, north, south, east and west; and if he will disseminate information on such savings to bodies for which his Department is responsible. 
Mr. Raynsford: English Heritage is retaining its nine regional offices, based on the Government office regions, and is strengthening them by appointing four new territory directors. No discussions have been held with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister about savings resulting from English Heritage's reorganisation. Any savings would be a matter for my right.. hon. Friend the Secretary of State, for Culture, Media and Sport and for English Heritage.
The Home Office is currently carrying out research about local authorities' funding of voluntary and community organisations. This will provide aggregate information on funding but will not list individual local authorities.
Mr. Raynsford: The Government have appointed Sir Michael Lyons to undertake an independent inquiry that will consider the detailed case for changes to the present system of local government funding and make recommendations on any changes that are necessary and how to implement them. The inquiry's terms of reference require it to report by the end of 2005 to my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I expect the report to be published to the same timescale.
Mr. Leigh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what account he will take of the costs of providing local authority services in rural areas within the distribution of formula grant; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Government generally seek to limit the amount of funding for local government which is centrally controlled or ring-fenced. In 200506 the percentage of central grant which is ring-fenced will fall again by a further 2 per cent. to 9 per cent..
Education is the Government's key national priority and we aim to give schools as much stability, freedom and flexibility in their funding as possible. In order to do so, we have already announced our proposals to provide, from 200607, funding for schools through a grant from the Department for Education and Skills to
21 Dec 2004 : Column 1562W
local authorities. On non-schools spending we will continue to provide as much freedom and flexibility to local authorities as possible.
Mr. Leigh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the per capita formula grant support was given by his Department in 200405 to (a) Lincolnshire county council, (b) Lincolnshire Police Authority, (c) Boston borough council, (d) East Lindsey district council, (e) City of Lincoln council, (f) North Kesteren district council, (g) South Holland district council, (h) South Kesteren district council and (i) West Lindsey district council. 
Mr. Leigh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average per capita formula grant support was for all local authority services in 200405 in (a) England, (b) inner London, (c) outer London and (d) Lincolnshire. 
Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people will be affected by the decision to increase the minimum age at which benefits from the local government pension scheme can be paid from 50 to 55 years; and if he will phase in this change. 
Phil Hope: It is not possible to calculate the number of people affected by the Scheme change referred to by my hon. Friend because any incidence of payment of Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) benefits between the ages of 50 and 55 is subject to individual employer decisions. The change is being phased in; members who are 50 or over by 31 March 2005 are unaffected, this means that the minimum benefit age for all existing members effectively increases in one year steps between 2005 and 2010.
Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what percentage of working days of planning department staff employed by local planning authorities in England were lost due to sickness in the last period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many planning appeals against conversion of existing residential accommodation in Oxford to flats for multiple occupation he has determined in the last two years; and how many were allowed. 
|Number of decisions issued||Number allowed|
|200405 up to 30 November 2004||16||11|
Keith Hill: Regional planning guidance (RPG) was replaced by regional spatial strategies (RSS) on commencement of part one of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. At the same time, secondary regulations prescribed that the existing RPG would become the RSS for the region. The following table shows the RSS's currently in force in England along with their date of publication. The titles of these documents still refer to RPG as they were published prior to commencement of the Act. All documents listed now have RSS status.
|Date of publication|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the North East to 2016 (RPG1)||November 2002|
|Regional Planning Guidance for East Anglia to 2016 (RPG6) and the parts of RPG9, below, that relate to Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex||November 2000|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the East Midlands to 2021 (RPG8)||January 2002|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9) as revised in July by 2004 by the Regional Transport Strategy (Chapter 9) and the Ashford Growth Area (Chapter 12) and excluding parts relating to Greater London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex||March 2001|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the South West (RPG10)||September 2001|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the West Midlands (RPG11)||June 2004|
|Regional Planning Guidance for Yorkshire and the Humber to 2016 (RPG12)||October 2001|
|Regional Planning Guidance for the North West (RPG1 3)||March 2003|
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