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Mr. Raynsford: This information is not held centrally. Fire statistics are compiled by the Office of the Deputy min Minister for each Fire and Rescue Authority. In this case, Romford's fires are reported as part of the London total.
The London Safety Plan (figures prepared by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority) lists the number of fires in Havering on an annual average based on a five year period (19992000 to 200304) as 1,585.
Yvette Cooper: Local authorities report their activities under homelessness legislation quarterly, and this includes the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation, either following acceptance by the local authority as homeless, or pending a decision an their application, on the last day of the quarter. Bed and breakfast style accommodation involving the shared use of bathroom and kitchen facilities is separately distinguished.
The following table shows the number of homeless households in B and B type accommodation as at 31 March in each of the past three years, how many contained dependent children and/or an expectant mother and how many of the households with children
21 Feb 2005 : Column 330W
had been resident for more than six weeks in B and B. Also shown are the numbers on 30 September 2004, the latest quarter for which figures are available. The September figures were reported in the Statistical Release on statutory homelessness for the third quarter of 2004, published on 14 December; copies are available in the Library of the House, and on the Office of the Deputy min Minister's website.
|Of which: with dependent children(178)|
|As at:||Total||Total||Resident for six weeks or more(179)|
|31 March 2002||11,840||6,730|||
|31 March 2003||12,070||4,800||2,770|
|31 March 2004||7,170||830||30|
|30 September 2004||7,400||1,370||190|
Keith Hill: Local authorities report their activities under homelessness legislation quarterly. Information on the number of households accepted as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need during the quarter and the number of these that contain dependent children, together with the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation as on the last day of the quarter and how many of these contain dependent children, as reported by the London boroughs for the past seven years, has been placed in the Library of the House.
After being accepted as homeless, a household will be placed in some form of accommodation. They may be placed in temporary accommodation, until a settled solution becomes available, or they may be given a settled solution straight away depending on the accommodation available to the local authority. As an alternative to temporary accommodation an authority may arrange for a household to remain in their current accommodation (homeless at home), until a settled solution becomes available.
Quarterly Statistical Releases on statutory homelessness published by the Office of the Deputy min Minister include information on acceptances, and households in temporary accommodation, at local authority level in an associated Supplementary Table. The latest Release of, 13 December, and previous editions are available both in the Library of the House and via the Office of the Deputy min Minister's website.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Deputy min Minister (1) how many families with children were housed in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than six weeks in Sefton in each year since 1997; 
Yvette Cooper: Information reported by Sefton district council about the number of homeless households in bed and breakfast style accommodation as at 31 March of each year since 1997 is tabled as follows. The number of households containing dependent children or an expectant mother has been collected since March 2002, and the number of these resident in B&B for longer than six weeks has been collected since December 2002.
|Of which: with dependent children(181)|
|All households||Total||Of which: resident longer than 6 weeks|
Keith Hill: The number of rough sleepers within each local authority in England have been collected by the Office of the Deputy min Minister since 1998. Figures for Sefton MBC, which includes Crosby, are tabled as follows:
Simon Hughes: To ask the Deputy min Minister if he will ask the Housing Corporation to issue updated guidance on the use of ground 8, schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 following Lord Justice Dyson's concluding remarks in the case of North British Housing Association v. Snaith. 
Keith Hill: The regulatory circular Tenancy Management: Eligibility and Evictions" issued by the Housing Corporation in July 2004 contains clear guidance about the corporation's expectations of registered social landlords (RSLs) (more commonly known as housing associations) in dealing with eviction and in particular housing benefit. The guidance states
'Possession proceedings for rent arrears should not be started against a tenant who can demonstrate that they have (1) a reasonable expectation of eligibility for housing benefit; (2) provided the local authority with all the evidence required to process a housing benefit claim; (3) paid required personal contributions towards the charges. Associations should make every effort to establish effective ongoing liaison with housing benefit departments and to make direct contact with them before taking enforcement action. A certificate should be obtained, if possible, to confirm that there are no outstanding benefit enquires, according to Department of Work and Pensions good practice guidance'.
The Housing Corporation expects RSLs as a matter of course to make continued contact with local authority housing benefit departments before and during enforcement action. It is in an RSL's interest to collect the rent that is owed to it.
The Civil Justice Council is working with the Department of Constitutional Affairs to issue a pre-action protocol for possessions cases. If introduced, then it would require social landlords to have carried out all the actions contained within before a court will hear a possessions case. In addition the Office of the Deputy min Minister is leading on a cross-Whitehall group on possessions and evictions which includes the Housing Corporation. We are clear that possession should be a last resort and intend to issue good practice guidance later this year which will set out the steps we would expect landlords to take in order to avoid possession action wherever possible.
|Blackburn and Darwen||312||524||400||407||347|
Mr. Gill: To ask the Deputy min Minister how many local authority-owned properties in Leicester, South do not meet the Government's decent homes standard; and what the estimated cost of bringing them up to this standard is. 
Keith Hill: The information requested is submitted to the Office of the Deputy min Minister according to local authority districts rather than by parliamentary constituency. In their Business Plan Statistical Appendix Leicester reported that 11,350 local authority-owned properties did not meet the Government's decent homes standard at April 2004.
Leicester reported that it would cost £68 million to bring these dwellings up to the standard. This covers the cost to bring existing non-decent dwellings up to the decent homes standard, but does not cover work to prevent currently decent dwellings from falling into non-decency.
Keith Hill: The information requested is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Housing Associations are regulated by the Housing Corporation, which is a non-departmental public body which in turn is sponsored by the Office of the Deputy min Minister. The Housing Corporation does not keep the detailed information requested.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy min Minister what help his Department gives to those people who need rented housing when the relevant council lists are very long and the relevant housing associations have closed lists. 
Keith Hill: In England housing authorities are responsible for setting their own allocation policies and procedures. However, they must ensure that their allocation scheme is framed so as to give reasonable preference to certain categories of persons. The categories are set out in s167 (2) of the Housing Act 1996 and are designed to ensure that priority for the allocation of social housing is given to those in the greatest housing need.
The Government recognise, however, that in some areas of the country there is a great demand for social housing resulting in long waiting lists; to alleviate this we have secured funding in the Spending Review 2004 which will, along with efficiency improvements, produce 75,000 new social homes for rent by 2008.
Homes for All" sets out the Government's agenda to increase choice and opportunity for tenants. It makes clear that the Government are keen to encourage the
21 Feb 2005 : Column 334W
extension of choice based lettings to cover low cost home ownership options and properties for rent from private landlords, as well as social housing.
The Government believe that the private rented sector is an important resource in meeting housing need. Homes for All" states that the Government will improve access to the private rented sector for households who might otherwise face homelessness, through schemes that provide rent deposits, guarantees or rent in advance, or which offer approved lettings with accredited private landlords.
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