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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 14 December 2005


Concessionary Bus Fares

9. Mr. Harper: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much funding the Government will provide for the concessionary bus fares scheme to Forest of Dean district council and Tewkesbury borough council. [37202]

Mr. Woolas: It is not possible to say since Revenue Support Grant is an unhypothecated block grant. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in his Budget statement that an extra £350 million would be added for the additional costs of moving to a free-fare scheme.

County Councils

10. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the future of county councils. [37203]

Mr. Woolas: The Government are currently engaged in a wide-ranging debate about the role, functions and form of local authorities including county councils. We plan to publish a White Paper on the future of local government in the middle of next year.

House Building

11. Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the additional public amenities required to support new house building in the south west. [37204]

Yvette Cooper: The need for services and facilities—such as transport—to support the development of sustainable communities is currently being considered as part of the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy being undertaken by the South West regional assembly.

14. Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on new house building in the south-east and the infrastructure to support it. [37207]

Yvette Cooper: The South East England regional assembly is completing its draft South East Plan, which includes policies on house building and infrastructure. The Government believe that providing infrastructure is an important part of supporting housing growth and sustainable communities. That is why we have proposed for consultation a Planning Gain Supplement to support infrastructure investment.

Local Government Finance

12. Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent representations he has received regarding the local government finance settlement. [37205]

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Mr. Woolas: There were 369 representations made to the consultation on options of the grant distribution system held over the summer. We have also received a variety of correspondence on the options between the end of this consultation and the announcement of the settlement on 5 December. Since the announcement we have received around 20 representations.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will itemise the costs which comprise the sum (a) spent to date on the council tax revaluation in England; and (b) which of these costs cannot be recouped. [31785]

Mr. Woolas: The Valuation Office Agency incurred approximately £60 million in costs and contractual liabilities in relation to the revaluation in England prior to its postponement. Some £45 million will be of potential use in the future.

Anne Main: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assurances his Department has given to the chair of the Local Government Association regarding extra financial assistance for local authorities relating to (a) licensing, (b) asylum seekers, (c) pensions and (d) disposal of electrical equipment. [35448]

Mr. Woolas: The Government have been working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to consider the pressures which authorities face over the next two years and the ways that those pressures can be managed. We have been moving forward jointly with local government in a number of areas. These include the recent changes to the local government pensions scheme where my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear that the revocation of the 85-year rule would not create extra pressures on local authority spending. The Government have also recently announced that the 2004–05 asylum support costs, as notified through the special circumstances arrangements, will be met in full. The same amount has been set aside to settle any 2005–06 special circumstances bids that are made by local authorities.

The Government have confirmed with the LGA its commitment to the New Burdens procedure. My hon. Friend, the Minister for Creative Industries and Licensing re-affirmed this week that costs incurred by local authorities in meeting their requirements under the new Licensing Act will (provided they have been incurred legitimately and efficiently) be fully met by fees within the national fee regime.

The Government are continuing to work with local authorities to establish the reasonable costs on local government resulting from the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive.

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received regarding the Local Government Finance Settlement. [37284]

Mr. Woolas: Consultation on the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2006–07 opened on the 5 December and closes on 11 January 2006. Representations received so far have mainly been about the data used in the formulae.
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Barker Report

13. Tony Baldry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has had with local authority leaders in the south-east on the Government's response to Barker. [37206]

Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister maintains periodic contact with the chair of the Local Government Association in order to discuss issues of concern to local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister met the Local Government Association (LGA) on 25 November. The meeting included a discussion of aspects of the Government's response to the Barker Review. Representatives from south-east local authorities were in attendance.

Deprivation Indices

15. Ben Chapman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department compiles indices of deprivation at sub-local authority level. [37208]

Mr. Woolas: The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004 (IMD 2004) has been compiled at sub-local authority district level. It is based on Super Output Area (SOA) level data. SOAs are aggregates of Census Output Areas, with each SOA comprising an average of 1,500 people. There are a total of 32,482 SOAs in England.

Access to Services

Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what information his Department collects on the (a) closure of (i) post offices, (ii) bank branches and (iii) independent retail shops and (b) effects on number of miles travelled to access services. [24773]

Mr. Woolas: The information requested is not collected by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Cigarette Fires (Deaths)

Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people died in the United Kingdom in fires caused by cigarettes in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [37391]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The following table shows the number of people that died in the UK in a fire caused by smokers' materials (i.e. cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco) in each of the last 10 years.
Fatal casualties

(1) Excluding incidents not recorded during periods of industrial action in 2002 and 2003.
(2) Provisional data.
Fire and Rescue Service FDR1 returns to ODPM.

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Colchester Borough Council

Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 2 December 2005, Official Report, column 796W, to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on Colchester borough council, if he will ask the chief executive of the Audit Commission to provide the hon. Member for Colchester with a copy of the letter which the chief executive will be writing to the hon. Member for North Essex, in respect of an objection to Colchester borough council's accounts for year ended 31 March 2004. [37253]

Mr. Woolas: A copy of the chief executive of the Audit Commission's reply to the hon. Member for North Essex dated 6 December has been placed in the Library of the House.

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