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Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many qualified teachers were in service at (a) maintained nursery and primary schools and (b) maintained secondary schools in Newcastle upon Tyne in each year since 1998; and what the ratio of teachers to pupils was in each sector in each case. 
Mr. Stephen Twigg: The following tables show the headcount and full-time equivalent number of qualified teachers and the pupil-teacher ratio for maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools in Newcastle upon Tyne local education authority in each year since 1998.
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the attributable (a) articles and (b) contributions that his Department's special advisers made to (i) newspapers, (ii) journals, (iii) books and (iv) other media in their official capacity between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004. 
Mr. Stephen Twigg: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 13 December 2004, Official Report, column 836W.
9. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to make changes to planning policy relating to telephone masts. 
Keith Hill: Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 on Telecommunications was issued in August 2001 to reflect the changes in the planning regulations that were made at the same time. The Government have a strategy to replace all PPGs with Planning Policy Statements. PPG8 will be replaced by a PPS8 in due course.
10. Mr. Luff: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to make changes to the planning system in relation to caravan sites for gypsies and travellers. 
On 22 December the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published a draft circular "Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Sites" on which we have invited comments. The aim of the circular is to ensure that the planning system makes provision for more sites to meet the needs of gypsies and travellers.
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11. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the merits of moving to a unitary system of local government in Lancashire. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is satisfied that the recommendations for unitary local government in Lancashire put forward by the Boundary Committee (with a minor modification regarding Ormskirk) would have represented effective structures for local government if an elected Regional Assembly had been established. However, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear in a statement to the House on 8 November 2004, following the decision of voters in the North East referendum, there will be no reorganisation of local government arising from our proposals for elected Regional Assemblies.
13. Mr. Clelland: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps his Department is taking to develop a long-term strategy on the role of local government. 
Phil Hope: The Government launched a debate on the future of local government with the publication of a discussion paper on the future of local government, and a prospectus for local area agreements, last July. Over the coming months, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends to publish further discussion papers on key issues, the first of which will look at neighbourhood engagement and leadership.
14. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps his Department is taking to support professional development of local government staff. 
Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister offers support for the professional development of local government staff through a number of routes. These include:
A National Graduate Development programme, in partnership with the Local Government Employers Organisation;
A new Future Leadership programme, for middle managers, funded through the National Capacity Building Programme;
A National Centre for Sustainable Communities Skills to promote world class skills sets for everyone engaged in the sustainable communities initiative.
Authorities are also being offered opportunities for focused training to improve their management of projects and programmes and service delivery both generally, through the Capacity Building initiative, and in the specific areas of housing provision, IT and e-government service delivery.
12. Jim Knight: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what support is available from his Department to fire and rescue authorities to enable them to provide advice to vulnerable households on how to prevent fire. 
The Community Fire Safety Innovation Fund supports local initiatives to reduce fire deaths; the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is funding free smoke detectors and fire suppression equipment; Revenue Support Grant takes account of authorities' prevention activity; the research
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programme identifies good practice; the National Community Fire Safety Centre provides publicity material and guidance.
15. Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many council houses were built in the financial year 200304. 
Keith Hill: The total number of social homes built in England during 200304 was 23,794. Of these, 182 were built by local authorities.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to respond to the letter of 20 December 2004 from the right hon. Member for Birkenhead about the Provisional Formula Grant Settlement for 200506 and how it affects Wirral local authority. 
Mr. Raynsford: I replied to my right hon. Friend on 11 January 2005.
Mr. Swire: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if his Department will release additional funds to help county councils meet their obligations to pay disabled facilities grants. 
Keith Hill: Specified capital grants paid by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to local authorities for disabled facilities grant (DFG) can only be paid to local housing authorities. I announced DFG allocations to local authorities for 200506 on 27 December 2004. Devon authorities received an increase in funding of 10 per cent. compared with allocations for 200405. Total funds available for the DFG programme in England have also been increased from £103.5 million in 200506 to £120.8 million p.a. in 200607 and 200708. Allocations to individual authorities for these years will be made later this year following completion of the interdepartmental review of the DFG programme which is currently under way.
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