Mr. Love: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what guidance is provided to local authorities on factors to be taken into account in the run-up to a parliamentary general election; and to what extent that guidance is required to be observed (a) before an election is announced, (b) in the period between announcement of an election and the dissolution of Parliament and (c) following dissolution; 
(2) whether the amendments made following the 2001 general election to the guidance issued to local authorities on factors to be taken into account in the run-up to a general election are fully in force. 
The Government do not issue guidance to local authorities on factors to be taken into account before, during or after a UK parliamentary election. Guidance on the administration of elections is issued to returning officers by the Electoral CommissionManaging a UK parliamentary general election-good practice guidance manual" is available on the Commission's website at: http://www.electoralcommission.gov.uk/files/dms/GeguidancePartGFINAL_1584211649_E_S_W_.pdf. Guidance on recounts can be found in Part G of this document. Other specific guidancefor instance on security issues and Returning Officers' expensesis issued by my Department and is available on the departmental website.
Returning officers operate independently from both local authorities and central government. Any guidance is offered for their assistance but they are not bound either to accept or to follow it.
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Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department's good practice guidelines for local authorities on sales of assets permit a vendor to proceed with the private sale of a public asset without making public information on negotiations with its preferred bidder. 
Mr. Woolas: Local authorities are responsible for taking their own decisions on sale and procurement matters within the framework of law which includes the European Union Treaty, the EU Procurement Directives, the regulations that implement them in the UK and other domestic legislation. In doing so, they will have regard to relevant good practice guidance. Any issues arising from a specific case would need to be pursued with the individual authority in the first instance.
(2) what assessment he has made of the ability of councils to fund the maintenance and provision of access to information with particular reference to local land charges; and whether he has considered allowing councils to increase their charges for the provision of such information; 
In England and Wales local land charges are matters of a public nature affecting land. They are recorded in registers maintained by local registering authorities. The fees payable for local land charge services are set by the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of HM Treasury, under the Local Land Charges Act 1975 as amended. The fees do not vary according to the identity of the person to whom the service is provided. There are no plans to change this policy.
The fees are set at levels that take into account the cost of delivering the relevant services. For example, the fee for an official search of the local land charges register is £6 or, if conducted electronically, £4, and the fee for a personal search is £11. However, as the present nationally set fees can only approximately reflect the costs of each individual registering authority, the Government has amended the 1975 Act (see schedule 4 paragraphs 8285 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005) to devolve the power to set local land charge fees, other than personal search fees, to registering authorities in England. They will be permitted to set fees, which taking one year with another, recover an amount up to, but not exceeding, the costs they incur in providing local land charge services. In setting fees, registering authorities will have to have regard to
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guidance issued by the Lord Chancellor. These arrangements are to be brought into force on a date to be fixed. The Lord Chancellor's fee-setting power for all local land charges in Wales was devolved to the Welsh Assembly on 31 December 2004.
There are currently no plans to change the fee payable for personal searches. Any change would have to be supported by sound evidence and public consultation would be required before making any substantial increase.
The Office of Fair Trading's market study on the provision of property information includes consideration of the charges for local land charge services (including personal searches of the local land charges register). Any recommendations made by OFT will be taken into account in the setting of fees for personal searches of the local land charges register and in the preparation of any guidance to be issued in relation to other local land charge fees.
In relation to the provision of property information, other than local land charges, local authorities can already set fees under the Local Authorities (Charges for Land Searches) Regulations 1994. In setting such fees a local authority is required to have regard to its costs in providing the information. Local authorities may also impose a charge for the provision of information in response to an enquiry under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. No changes are currently proposed to these arrangements.
Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is carrying out a review of the planning enforcement system in England. Retrospective planning applications, including whether any penalties should be imposed, and retrospective planning permission are part of that review.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what campaign spending restrictions apply for campaigning in (a) mayoral referendums and (b) local referendums held under the Local Government Act 2003. 
The Local Authorities (Conduct of Referendums) (England) Regulations 2001 specify an expenses limit for mayoral referendums of £2,000, plus 5p per elector on the relevant register of local government electors. That limit applies to any expenses incurred by or on behalf of an individual or body during the referendum period for the purpose of promoting or securing a particular result in the referendum. In addition, local authorities must have regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, which states that an authority must not incur spending designed to influence the outcome of a mayoral election.
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The Local Government Act 2003 provides for local authorities to hold advisory referendums on local issues. There is no provision setting a limit on campaign spending for this purpose. However, the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity states that a local authority should not use public funds for the purpose of persuading the public to hold a particular view in a referendum.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the performance requirements for registered social landlords to receive gap funding have been changed in the last 12 months; and whether the requirement that they achieve two stars remains. 
Yvette Cooper: The gap funding arrangements for housing transfer were announced on 21 March. There have been no subsequent changes to the performance requirements for registered social landlords (RSL). The suggestion that the RSL achieve two star performance was in a working draft on which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister consulted. It was not included arrangements as during consultation it became clear that it would be unreasonable to link payment of gap funding, on which the viability of the RSL business plan is dependent, to a decision from a third party, the Housing Inspectorate, who gives the performance ratings.