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6 Jun 2005 : Column 392W—continued

Business Rates

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much revenue has been raised in business rates in England in each year since 1997; and what the estimated receipts are for 2005–06. [1112]

Mr. Woolas: The combined total yield from local, central and crown lists is as follows:
£ million

The figures for 2004–05 are provisional and the figures for 2005–06 are based on rounded initial estimates from billing authorities.

Cabinet Committees

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what Cabinet (a) sub-committees, (b) committees and (c) working groups he sits on. [353]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement on Cabinet Committees made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 24 May 2005, Official Report, column 12WS.

Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the implementation of the provisions of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002; and on what date he expects the regulations to come into force. [1863]

Yvette Cooper: The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 received Royal Assent in May 2002. Most of the provisions have now been introduced through a series of commencement orders.

The first phase of leasehold reforms came into effect on 26 July 2002, with the second phase coming into effect in two parts on 30 September and
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31 October 2003. These measures included: a relaxation of the qualifying rules to make it easier to buy the freehold or a new lease; a new no fault 'Right to Manage' provisions for leaseholders of flats to take over management of their block where they do not wish to or cannot afford to buy the freehold; and new procedures for consultation on service charges.

A further commencement order brought into effect the provisions in Part 1 of the Act relating to Commonhold, on 27 September 2004. Commonhold is a new form of tenure for blocks of flats and other multi-unit properties, under which occupiers would own their units outright, and through a commonhold association own and mange the common parts collectively.

Finally, another phase of the leasehold reforms was brought into effect on 28 February 2005. This provides leaseholders with better protection against forfeiture, and requires landlords to send a written demand for ground rent before it become payable. Leaseholders of houses can also now choose their own buildings insurance.

The remaining provisions and Regulations of the Act, once enabled, would require collective enfranchisement to be exercised through an RTE company; require landlords to keep service charge monies for each group of service charge payers in separate (designated) accounts; require landlords to provide a regular (yearly) statement of account together with other relevant information; and require notices sent by landlords to tenants for administration charges to include content prescribed by Regulations. No timetable has yet been set to bring these provisions and Regulations into force.

The Welsh Assembly has devolved responsibility for secondary legislation in respect of leasehold provisions in Wales. The hon. Member may wish to write to that office in respect of the commencement orders for Wales.

Council Tax

Mr. Walker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to reduce the levels of council tax in Hertfordshire; and if he will make a statement. [786]

Mr. Woolas: It is local authorities which set their council tax although, as we said in our manifesto, we will not hesitate to use our capping powers to protect council taxpayers from excessive increases in council tax.

The Government announced their 2005–06 capping principles to the House on 23 March. These were that authorities' 2005–06 budget requirements are excessive if they show

No authorities in Hertfordshire have breached these principles.

John Hemming: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) whether one-off funding for local authorities to reduce council tax requirements will be continued in financial year 2006–07; and what assessment he has made of the effect on council tax requirements of not continuing this funding; [981]
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(2) what his current estimate is of average changes in council tax for the financial year 2006–07. [980]

Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is committed to supporting local authorities in delivering improvements in key public services without unacceptable council tax rises. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister worked closely with local government during the last spending review to identify pressures and burdens as well as the scope for efficiency savings, and the totals for 2006–07 and 2007–08 reflect the outcome of that work. It is imperative that councils focus on how the money available to local government is spent and improve productivity. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister believes that local authorities have demonstrated that they will make their full contribution to the local government efficiency target of £6.45 billion by 2007–08, which will provide further investment to front line service. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will continue to work closely with local government to ensure that levels of central grant are based on a realistic assessment of service commitments pressures faced by local government. Such assessment underpinned the decisions taken in Spending Review 2004 and spending plans for 2007–08 remain as set out in the Review.

The level of the council tax increase in the coming financial years will depend on local authorities' spending decisions. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will work to ensure that improved local services are deliverable within the spending plans for local government. The Government will not hesitate to use their capping powers to deal with excessive increases.

East of England Regional Assembly

Mr. Walker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will hold a referendum on the future of the east of England regional assembly; and if he will make a statement. [1126]

Yvette Cooper: The east of England regional assembly is a voluntary body of the region. Government have no powers to dissolve it or to require a referendum to be held on its future.


Mr. Kidney: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the progress of local government in England in implementing e-government. [81]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Local e-Government Programme does not complete until the end of March 2006. The main target date for the e-enablement of local authority services and delivery of e-government priority outcomes is set at 31 December 2005.

On 3 February 2005, we announced the results from the 4th round of Implementing Electronic Government (IEG4) returns. These showed that councils were set to meet the 2005 target for 100 per cent. e-enablement of services.

Local authorities will be asked to complete a mid year IEG statement with a submission deadline of 18 July 2005. After 2005–06, Local e-government will be mainstreamed within the CPA assessment framework.
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Fire Service

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the timetable for the establishment of regional fire control rooms is. [1111]

Jim Fitzpatrick: We consulted stakeholders through the Practitioners Forum, and the Chairs of all English Fire and Rescue Authorities, on the accommodation criteria in December 2003, before formally beginning the procurement process with an official notice in the Journal of the European Union in April 2004, and have involved key stakeholders at every stage, including the final moderation meetings held in February and March 2005. We expect to make an announcement soon.

John McDonnell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many lift rescues were carried out by the Fire Service in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [2063]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The number of lift release incidents attended by the Fire and Rescue Service in England is set out in the following table.
Number of incidents

ODPM annual returns

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