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7 Feb 2005 : Column 1288W—continued

Local Elections

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. [211192]

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.

Local Government

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. [211917]

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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 650–51W, 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. [211938]

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.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will publish the regulatory impact assessment produced for the Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime. [211977]

Mr. Raynsford: Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) was introduced in 2002. Prior to April 2004, no regulatory impact assessment was
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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 2006–07, of 68 per cent. in the volume of inspection required to support CPA, compared to the 2002–03 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.

Local Government Finance

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. [213504]

Mr. Raynsford: The following table lists all grants allocated to Torbay unitary authority in 2004–05 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 2004–05 need to apply in order to receive an allocation.
£ million

Standards Fund2.809
Teachers' Pay Reform1.855
Sure Start General Grant1.670
Leadership Incentive0.364
Transitional Support0.182
School Standards2.007
Safeguarding Children0.230
Carers Grant0.372
Training Support0.161
National Training Strategy0.083
Preserved Rights3.480
Adoption Support and Special Guardianship0.059
Choice Protects0.077
Human Resources Development Strategy0.063
Access and Systems Capacity1.542
Children and Adolescent Mental Health0.155
Residential Allowance1.793
Teenage Pregnancy Local Implementation0.101
Mental Health0.342
AIDS Support0.018
Delayed Discharge0.337
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit administration(19)1.160
Performance Standards(20)0.266
Civil Defence0.067
Waste Targeted Grant0.057
Probation Loan Charges0.060
Neighbourhood Wardens0.034
Planning Delivery0.510
Supporting People6.130
Supporting People Administration0.155
Magistrates Courts0.854
Rural Bus Subsidy0.015
Homelessness Strategies(21)0.060
Private Finance Initiative1.800

(19)Authorities need to submit management information to receive the correct amounts of housing benefits and council tax benefits administration.
(20)The amount for the HB/CTB Performance Standards is an amount that the local authority has applied for and has been awarded. Payment is dependent on payment progressing.
(21)Part of grant involves a bid and payment is dependent on key homelessness indicators.

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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 2003–04 will end; and if he will make a statement. [214839]

Mr. Raynsford: I have made clear that the floor damping mechanism is an integral part of the new formula grant system introduced in 2003–04. 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.

Local Government Ombudsman

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1)what proportion of the staff employed in investigations on behalf of the Local Government Ombudsman previously worked in local government; [211461]

(2) whether the procedures for appointment of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) have been altered since the last occasion on which a LGO was appointed. [211462]

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 guidance—as they were in 2001 when the last appointment was made.

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