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19 Jan 2005 : Column 999W—continued

Local Government Finance

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which billing authorities had the (a) highest and (b) lowest Band D council tax in England in 2004–05. [207965]

Mr. Raynsford: Assuming all precepts are included, the billing authorities with the highest and lowest Band D council tax in England in 2004–05 were Sedgefield (£1,376) and Wandsworth (£601) respectively. Wandsworth (£553) also had the lowest average council tax, with Richmond-upon-Thames (£1,489) having the highest average.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he will provide additional grant to local authorities to refund lost grant arising from amendments to their 2003–04 grant consequent upon errors in population estimates for 2001; and whether he is setting aside amounts to refund authorities for retrospective reductions in their 2004–05 grant arising from errors in population estimates for 2002 by the Department. [208529]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has always been clear that we would issue an amending report for the 2003–04 settlement to incorporate the revised 2001 population estimates. It is only fair that authorities should receive the correct amount of grant relative to the updated population estimates. Indeed, we consulted on options for the 2003–04 and 2004–05 amending reports last summer.

However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister appreciates that it is not possible for authorities that receive less grant under the amending report than they did under the original local government finance report to reopen their budgets for 2003–04. For this reason we will pay, or recover, any changes in 2003–04 grant amounts during 2005–06; and we have proposed amending the floor damping scheme for 2005–06 to ensure that all authorities should receive at least the floor increase in their formula grant after paying back any money owed under the 2003–04 amending report.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister proposes that similar arrangements be put in place for the 2004–05 amending report.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons Hampshire is combined with the Isle of Wight for the purpose of area cost adjustment calculations; and what assessment he has made of the impact that this has on Hampshire's grant allocations. [208530]

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Mr. Raynsford : In calculating the area cost adjustment (ACA), authorities are grouped together to make sure that there is enough wage data in each area to produce ACA factors which are robust and stable from year to year. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are grouped together and so receive the same area cost adjustment. On balance, the new earnings survey sample size for the Isle of Wight is such that their labour costs cannot be estimated with the same degree of precision as other, more populous, areas. The Isle of Wight sample size is no larger than other unitary, metropolitan or London boroughs that we have combined together in order to avoid small samples. This grouping for the ACA treats all authorities more consistently.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not normally exemplify the effect of options that were not adopted in the formula review for subsequent years.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact of the local government finance settlement 2005–06 on the level of council tax. [209188]

Mr. Raynsford: The provisional local government finance settlement for 2005–06 provides an increase in formula grant of 5.6 per cent. and we have been able to guarantee that, for the third successive year, all authorities receive a grant increase which is at least above the rate of inflation. Overall grant increases by £3.5 billion or 6.2 per cent., which means that since we took office we have increased Government grant to local government by 33 per cent. in real terms.

Given this substantial investment in local government and scope for efficiency gains, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects to see significantly lower council tax increases next year. We expect all authorities to budget prudently and minimise demands on council taxpayers. Average council tax increase in England in 2005–06 should be less than 5 per cent. We are prepared to take even tougher capping action than we did in 2004–05. This applies to all authorities, including police and fire authorities.

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost to local authorities was of collecting and enforcing the council tax in England for 2003–04; and if he will make a statement. [209388]

Mr. Raynsford: The cost to local authorities of collecting and enforcing the council tax in England in 2002–03 was £311.1 million.

The data are as reported by local authorities and are taken from outturn figures for 2002–03. Outturn data are not yet available for 2003–04.
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Planning Appeals (Coventry)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many planning appeals there have been in Coventry in the last three years. [208889]

Keith Hill: The information requested is contained in the following table:
Planning appeals in Coventry

DatesPlanning appeals received by the Planning InspectoratePlanning appeals determined by the Planning Inspectorate
Between 1 January 2002 and 31 December 20023122
Between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 20034938
Between 1 January 2004 and 31 December 20045937

The difference between the appeals received and the appeals determined columns is accounted for by appeals being received in one period but not being determined until the next. In addition, some appeals are withdrawn and are not determined.

Residential Rates

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average local authority residential rates bill was for a typical household in England in each year from 1975 to its abolition. [207914]

Mr. Raynsford: Figures for the average domestic rates bill in England for each financial year from 1974–75 to 1989–90 are tabled as follows:
Financial yearAverage domestic rates bill (£)

Social Housing (Right to Buy)

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement on the eligibility of housing association tenants for the right to buy; [208658]

(2) how many housing association tenants are eligible for the right to buy. [208659]

Keith Hill: Around 870,000 housing association tenants have the right to buy or the preserved right to buy their rented homes.
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The right to buy is available to approximately 65,000 pre-1988 secure tenants of non-charitable housing associations. Housing association properties were generally let on secure tenancies until 1988 but all new lettings since then have been on assured tenancies which do not include the right to buy.

In addition, some 805,000 former local authority tenants of housing stock which have been transferred to housing associations retain a preserved right to buy.

Supporting People Grants

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department plans to use a revised formula for the supporting people grant allocations for 2005–06; and if he will make a statement. [208528]

Yvette Cooper: The supporting people grant allocations for 2005–06, announced on 2 December 2004, were partly informed by a new needs based distribution formula. The overall size of the supporting people budget has reduced in 2005–06 by 5 per cent. The Government made a commitment to limit any decrease in grant to individual authorities to no more than 7.5 per cent. The majority of authorities received the average reduction of 5 per cent. The formula, which is intended to help allocate funds to areas of greatest relative need, was only used to inform grant levels to those authorities likely to receive longer term increases or decreases in funding.

The Government will shortly launch a formal consultation on the supporting people distribution formula to be used for allocations beyond 2005–06.

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