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26 Oct 2005 : Column 447W—continued

Local Government Ombudsman

Mr. Byers: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will extend the powers of the Local Government Ombudsman to include complaints made against the actions of a local authority monitoring officer. [21825]

Mr. Woolas: Section 26 of the Local Government Act 1974 provides that the Local Government Ombudsman may investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration in connection with action taken by or on behalf of a local authority. While it is for the Courts to interpret the statute, an allegation of maladministration in respect of an action by an officer of the authority such as the monitoring officer would already appear to fall within the Ombudsman's remit.

Millennium Dome

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many firm bids there were for the millennium dome. [20802]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Under the first dome sale competition, which ran from March 1999 until February 2001, there were six firm final proposals,
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which culminated in preferred bidder status being given to two bidders in succession. When neither of those proposals could be brought to completion, the second sale process invited expressions of interest for both a future use for the dome and compatible uses for associated land on the Greenwich Peninsula. Three substantive proposals were received, although only two of these offered specific uses for the dome itself. Subsequently, the Meridian Delta Ltd. consortium with the Anschutz Entertainment Group was selected as best satisfying the assessment criteria, and negotiations were concluded with that consortium in May 2002. The commercial contracts went unconditional in June 2004 and work is now well under way on the new arena inside the dome.

Planning Applications

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the proportion of the cost incurred by local councils in processing planning applications which were covered by planning application fees in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [21283]

Yvette Cooper: In the last year for which an assessment was made, 2003, it was estimated that fees covered on average between 72 per cent. and 87 per cent. of the costs of handling planning applications depending on how overheads are measured. Since then fees for handling planning applications in England have been increased. These increases came into effect on 1 April 2005. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimates that these increases will generate an additional £68 million of extra resources for LPAs in England in 2005–06 which should lead broadly to full cost recovery.

Property Services Agency

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which Government department (a) has responsibility for the residuary functions of the Property Services Agency (PSA) and (b) maintains the registry of former employees of the PSA. [19849]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 20 October 2005]: The former Property Services Agency (PSA) was responsible for the provision of property management services, building construction and maintenance and appropriate related supplies to Government departments. The Office for the Deputy Prime Minster has responsibilities for residual matters relating to the former PSA in respect of (1) the parts of civil estate for which the former Department of the Environment was responsible and (2) any outstanding financial liabilities of the PSA. In practice these responsibilities mostly relate to residuary liabilities for former PSA employees. ODPM does not maintain a registry of former employees of the PSA.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much has been spent on rebranding in his Department and related agencies since 2003–04. [18406]

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Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has spent £52,117 on developing and introducing the revised corporate identity for the Department since 2003. This work included all design and promotional work including the guidelines advice.

The information on rebranding for related agencies is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Window Cleaning Service

Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon representing the House of Commons Commission what the cost has been of providing a window cleaning service for the parliamentary estate each year since 1997, broken down by cost for each building cleaned. [21897]

Nick Harvey: Until 2003 the cost of window cleaning was not separately identified. Since August 2003 when the present contract was let, the annual costs of window cleaning in buildings on the parliamentary estate have been as follows. The overall cost of window cleaning on the parliamentary estate is set out in the contract; the apportionment between individual buildings is a matter for the contractor. The figures shown represent the cost to the House of Commons.

BuildingCharge to House of Commons
Palace of Westminster58,000
Norman Shaw North7,000
Norman Shaw South3,000
1 Canon Row3,000
1 Derby Gate3,000
1 Parliament Street4,000
7 Old Palace Yard1,000
1 The Abbey Garden1,000
2 The Abbey Garden1,000
Millbank House1,000
7 Millbank9,000
22 John Islip Street1,000
Portcullis House63,000
Fielden House9,000


Age-related Payments

David Mundell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to what extent the payment of the age-related payment will take account of the level of council tax benefit which an individual is receiving. [20718]

Mr. Plaskitt: People in receipt of the guarantee credit element of pension credit, who are entitled to the maximum help available through council tax benefit, are not entitled to the £200 payment. Those not in receipt of the guarantee credit element of pension credit are eligible for the £200 age-related payment.
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Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were in receipt of (a) incapacity benefit, (b) jobseeker's allowance, (c) income support and (d) income support for lone parents in Pudsey in each year since 1997. [18921]

Mr. Plaskitt: The Information is the tables.
Incapacity benefit (IB) and severe disability allowance (SDA) claimants in Pudsey parliamentary constituency

As at February each yearAll IB/SDAIBSDA

Jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claimants in Pudsey parliamentary constituency

As at February each yearJSA(C)JSA(IB)

Income support (IS) claimants in Pudsey parliamentary constituency

As at February each yearAll ISIS lone parents

(28) Figures are based on very few sample cases and are therefore subject to a high degree of sampling variation. These figures should be used as a guide to the current situation only.
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred.
2. Totals may not sum due to rounding.
3. From November 2003 IS figures are severely affected by the introduction of pension credit, which replaced MIG on the 6 October 2003 and extended IS entitlement to customers aged 60+. Pension credit cases are not included in the figures in the table. It is not possible to produce comparisons across 6 October 2003 on a consistent basis, whether pension credit cases are included or not.
4. 'Lone parents' are defined as single parents aged under 60 and not in receipt of a disability premium.
5. 'Others' are defined as everyone who isn't a lone parent.
6. There is a small overlap between jobseeker's allowance (income-based) (JSA(IB)) and jobseeker's allowance (contribution-based) (JSA(C)) caseloads—claimants in receipt of income-based JSA who would also be entitled to the contributory element are counted in both categories.
7. Incapacity Benefit figures include credits only cases.
Information Directorate, 5 per cent. samples.

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John Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Easington constituency are in receipt of (a) state retirement pension, (b) job seeker's allowance and (c) incapacity benefit. [20351]

Mr. Timms: In Easington parliamentary constituency, there were 15,400 people in receipt of state pension, as at September 2004; 1,143 people in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, as at September 2005; and 9,500 people in receipt of incapacity benefit or severe disability allowance, as at February 2005. In each case, these are the most recent available figures.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much it cost to run the Benefits Fraud Hotline in each of the last three years; and how many calls it received in each year. [18620]

Mr. Plaskitt: The available information is in the following tables.
National Benefit Fraud Hotline operating costs

April to March

Calls answered by National Benefit Fraud Hotline

April to March

National Benefit Fraud Hotline

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) budget and (b) staffing levels of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate were for the (i) 2002–03, (ii) 2003–04 and (iii) 2004–05 financial years. [18694]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is in the tables.
Benefit Fraud Inspectorate budget

£ million

(29) This included recruitment for comprehensive performance assessment work and performance improvement action team (funded by Treasury Invest to Save money).

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate staffing levels

Staff in post

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans the Government have to (a) tackle benefit fraud and (b) simplify the benefits system. [17840]

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Mr. Plaskitt: Our plans for tackling benefit fraud were published in 'Reducing Fraud in the Benefit System: Achievements and Ambitions' on 13 October which is available in the Library.

We are exploring and developing ways to simplify benefits while continuing to protect social security expenditure. We want to ensure that they provide the best support for helping people into work while protecting the position of those in greatest need. We want to improve the financial incentives to work for some groups, to strengthen the incentives to seek work, and to save for retirement for all groups. We are also looking at the interaction between the benefits system and other forms of support.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimates are of take-up rates of each benefit and pension payment administered by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [20007]

Mr. Plaskitt: Estimates of take-up of the main income-related benefits administered by the DWP—income support, minimum income guarantee and income-based jobseeker's allowance—as well as local authority administered housing benefit and council tax benefit, can be found in the DWP publication series entitled: Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up". Copies of the reports are held in the Library; in due course the series will cover take-up of pension credit.

Estimates from the Department's Pensioners' Incomes Series", copies of which can be found in the Library, show 98 per cent. of all pensioner families (single pensioners and pensioner couples) have some income from the state pension.

Currently it is not possible to estimate take-up rates for disability living allowance and attendance allowance. Following a recommendation in 'Meeting DWP's long-term information needs on disability: a feasibility report', (DWP Research report number 267), the Department is commissioning research to test two possible approaches to establish whether it is possible to estimate take-up rates for these benefits. Results will be available in 2007.

Information on the take-up rates of other DWP administered benefits are not available.

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Government continue to provide benefits to meet the interest payments on a loan which had been taken out by a person now on benefits when an endowment policy accompanying a mortgage matures but does not provide sufficient funds to pay off the balance of that mortgage. [21827]

Mr. Plaskitt: Yes; the balance of any loan which originally qualified for help with interest payments would remain eligible for such help where part of the capital is repaid.

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total cost of housing benefit paid to council tenants was in the last year for which figures are available. [19805]

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Mr. Plaskitt: In 2004–05, the total cost of housing benefit rent rebate paid to local authority tenants in Great Britain was £5,184 million.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent estimate he has made of the number of households which did not take-up entitlement to council tax benefit, broken down by (a) constituency and (b) local authority area, (i) in total and (ii) as a percentage of the number of eligible households, listed in descending order of percentage take-up. [20944]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information is not available below national level. The latest available information is in Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2002/2003", a copy of which is available in the Library.

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