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21 Nov 2005 : Column 1688W—continued

Press Officers

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many press officers (a) are employed in the Department and (b) he expects to be employed in 2006–07; and what the estimated cost is in each case. [27863]

Mrs. McGuire: The last full year for which figures are available is 2004–05.

As at 31 March 2005 19 national press officers and 23 regional press officers were employed at a total cost of £1,533,703.

The costs are based on average salaries for the year and take into account the number of press officers (excluding vacancies) in post each month.

As at 11 November 2005 there are no plans to increase the overall number of press officers employed by the Department and therefore the only increase in costs will be the annual increase in salary costs already agreed as part of the 2005 pay settlement.

Rachel Scully

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the retirement pension forecast team has been able to supply Rachel Scully, a constituent of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, with a forecast of her pension which takes into account (a) her underlying entitlement to carer's allowance and (b) the awarding of credits for her second state pension. [30677]

Mr. Timms: I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 16 November 2005, Official Report, column 1257W.


Business Rates

Mr. Maude: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact of the business rates revaluation on businesses in (a) Horsham, (b) West Sussex and (c) England. [25716]

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Mr. Woolas: The assessment of the impact of revaluation on businesses in England was integral to the setting of the non-domestic rating multiplier for 2005–06 and the transitional arrangements. This assessment was done at a higher level than that of individual businesses.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Jon Trickett: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what training is provided to fire services on identifying injury caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. [28956]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The firefighter job description (rolemap) requires firefighters to receive training in First Aid. This training, which must be delivered by appropriate providers such as St. Johns Ambulance Service, includes information on signs and symptoms of medical condition to ensure appropriate action is taken. Firefighters are also trained to administer treatment to support the stabilisation of a casualty's condition.

Community Right to Buy

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to introduce a community right to buy; and if he will make a statement. [26918]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's discussion document, Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter" (January 2005), invited a debate about whether the idea of a community right to buy should be pursued, and the debate is ongoing.


Martin Horwood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what mechanisms are in place to assess the effectiveness of consultant-led projects in his Department; what sanctions are available to penalise consultants who run unsuccessful projects; how many projects conducted by consultants were assessed as unsuccessful in each year since 2000; and what sanctions were imposed in each case. [29121]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has a number of means to monitor the effectiveness of consultant-led projects, including regular progress meetings with the contractor and using the Gateway process to ensure that the aims of projects are met. There have been no incidents when consultant-led projects have been deemed to be unsuccessful and ODPM exercised legal remedies as a result.


Clare Short: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, dated 14 July, on the siting of telecommunications equipment on Birmingham city council land. [26641]

Yvette Cooper: My noble Friend Baroness Andrews replied to the letter on 16 November.

Council Tax

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make further funds available to local authorities to allow them to reduce council tax rates. [28593]

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Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) on the 16 November 2005, Official Report, column 1235–36W.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the Government plan to re-commence work on council tax revaluation in England. [29727]

Mr. Woolas: The Government will not take a view on this until we have received Sir Michael Lyons' final report and considered it.

Departmental Contracts (Direct Mail)

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many contracts for direct mail were signed by his Department in (a) 2005–06 to date and (b) 2004–05; and what the value was in each case. [27678]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Staff

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many staff in his Department were (a) civil servants, (b) contractors and (c) other staff in each year since 1997. [27457]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was established on 29 May 2002.

The figures for civil servants are available in table C on the civil service statistics, which covers permanent staff numbers, on a full-time equivalent basis in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (its predecessor) and agencies from 1998 and 2004. Civil service statistics 2004 are available in the Library and on the Cabinet Office Statistics website at: http://www.civilservice. service_statistics/index.asp

Figures for contractors and other staff are available for ODPM (Central) for 2004 and 2005, are tabled as follows, as headcount. Figures for part (b) includes consultants, and part (c) covers 'other staff' as temporary agency staff.

ContractorsOther staff

ODPM (Central) HR IS

There is no centrally collected data for parts (b) and (c) for the Government Offices and the Executive Agencies (Planning Inspectorate, The Fire Service College and Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre).

Designated Growth Areas

Anne Main: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the infrastructure costs for each designated growth area within England; and if he will make a statement. [27440]

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Yvette Cooper: Government remain strongly committed to the principle that infrastructure must be sufficient to support growth and is an essential element in achieving more sustainable communities. For example, between 1998–99 and 2002–03 public spending in the South East and Eastern Regions increased by over 17 per cent. in real terms per head of population.

The Government's approach is to ensure that infrastructure, including public services, is provided in step with growth, as plans for individual growth locations are developed. The main elements of this approach are ensuring that mainstream funding reflects the needs of growth, maximising the potential for private sector contributions and making available selective additional grant funding to unlock major growth schemes and locations.

Assessing the infrastructure requirements for particular localities is a complex and lengthy process. It needs to assess the detailed layout of a development as it evolves and to allow for changing approaches to service provision affecting what is needed and when. The Government are encouraging local delivery partners to focus on identifying, prioritising and sourcing investment in their locations—based on their individual circumstances and priorities, and using a mix of public and private funding. This approach is being taken forward in the Milton Keynes Prospectus and is being developed in other growth location business plans.

The Government's aim is to provide as much information as it can on likely future levels of support but this needs to be made within the context of the public expenditure cycle.

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