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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2005, Official Report, column 758W, on local elections, what estimate he has made of the cost of implementing the suggestion of the Electoral Commission to introduce freepost mailings in local elections; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has to date made no estimate of the cost of the Electoral Commission's recommendation. Local elections in Scotland, apart from the franchise, are a matter for the Scottish Office.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what freedoms councils with a (a) good and (b) excellent comprehensive performance assessment result have gained; and how long those freedoms last. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Government announced in November 2002 a package of freedoms and flexibilities for local authorities which would be granted following Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). All authorities have gained new powers to borrow and to charge for discretionary services, and the freedom to spend surplus street parking income on environmental improvements. We have also given them powers to establish Business Improvement Districts and to vary council tax discounts.
In addition authorities with an excellent, good or fair CPA assessment have been given the power to trade in function-related activities. As set out in our response on 31 January 2005, Official Report, column 65051W, to the hon. Member's recent question about plans, we have also relaxed plan requirements for good and excellent authorities.
In addition, good councils have significantly reduced inspection and excellent councils receive virtually no inspection. Excellent authorities are not subject to ring-fenced funding apart from that passed direct to schools. Excellent authorities are also able to join the Innovation Forum to explore new ways of working to enable local government to better meet local needs.
Councils retain CPA based freedoms provided they retain their CPA results. Councils that lose good or excellent status are able to retain freedoms contingent on CPA categorisations for at least a year, although we would consider removing them in cases of serious failure.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on plans (a) the Government and (b) the Audit Commission have to extend Comprehensive Performance Assessment to (i) the fire service and (ii) police authorities. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Government have invited the Audit Commission to take on the role of performance assessment for the Fire and Rescue Service in England. The Audit Commission is currently implementing the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) across the 46 English Fire and Rescue Authorities and will publish the results by August 2005. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has already been assessed as part of the Greater London Authority's Initial Performance Assessment.
Neither the Government nor the Audit Commission have any specific plans at present to extend the CPA to Police Authorities. However, the recently published Police Reform White Paper, Building Communities, Beating Crime, suggests a package of measures intended to clarify and strengthen new accountability arrangements for policing. These propose that police authorities, for the first time, be subject to inspection and intervention. The detail of this will be worked though in conjunction with stakeholders.
Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) was introduced in 2002. Prior to April 2004, no regulatory impact assessment was
7 Feb 2005 : Column 1290W
required for any proposal that impacted solely on public services, and it was determined at the time that the CPA proposals met this criteria.
The Audit Commission are currently consulting on proposals for Comprehensive Performance Assessment from 2005. These proposals include a reduction, by 200607, of 68 per cent. in the volume of inspection required to support CPA, compared to the 200203 level. A regulatory impact assessment has not been provided with this consultation because current guidelines only demand one for public sector proposals that impose an additional burden of over £5 million per annum.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 24 January 2005, Official Report, column 1978W, on local government finance, for which grants Torbay unitary authority may apply; for which grants Torbay unitary authority has applied; and for which grants applications were successful. 
Mr. Raynsford: The following table lists all grants allocated to Torbay unitary authority in 200405 within aggregate external finance (AEF) in addition to revenue support grant and national non-domestic rates. These were the grants referred to in the answer of 24 January 2005, Official Report, column 198W. There are other grants outside AEF but these are not provided for an authority's core services and relate, in the main, to areas of funding which are passed on by local authorities, such as mandatory student awards. For the most part, the authority was entitled to these grants and did not in 200405 need to apply in order to receive an allocation.
|Teachers' Pay Reform||1.855|
|Sure Start General Grant||1.670|
|National Training Strategy||0.083|
|Adoption Support and Special Guardianship||0.059|
|Human Resources Development Strategy||0.063|
|Access and Systems Capacity||1.542|
|Children and Adolescent Mental Health||0.155|
|Teenage Pregnancy Local Implementation||0.101|
|Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit administration(19)||1.160|
|Waste Targeted Grant||0.057|
|Probation Loan Charges||0.060|
|Supporting People Administration||0.155|
|Rural Bus Subsidy||0.015|
|Private Finance Initiative||1.800|
Some grants are also provided on the basis of eligibility (such as some Standards Fund initiatives where schools might receive support as a result of being designated for a particular role, or in the case of the Teacher Pay Reform Grants where grant is paid on the basis of information held about teacher numbers and salaries).
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the transition phase, following the introduction of the new formula grant system in 200304 will end; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: I have made clear that the floor damping mechanism is an integral part of the new formula grant system introduced in 200304. This ensures that all authorities receive an increase in formula grant at least equal to the floor.
The floor damping mechanism protects authorities from both changes in the underlying formula and from changes in the socio-economic data used in the formula grant calculations. We have no intention of removing this protection.
Mr. Raynsford: Information on the proportion of the investigations staff of the Local Government Ombudsman who previously worked in local government is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Although the Local Government Ombudsman service falls outside the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA), new appointments will continue to be conducted in accordance with OCPA's guidanceas they were in 2001 when the last appointment was made.
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