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14 Dec 2005 : Column 1964W—continued

Council Tax

Martin Horwood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what proportion of each local authority's spending was represented by council tax income from householders in each council tax band in the last year for which figures are available. [36341]

Mr. Woolas: A table providing estimates, for each local authority, of the proportion of budgeted revenue expenditure for 2004–05 that was financed from council taxes payable in respect of each council tax band, has been made available in the Library of the House.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations from pensioner groups he has received regarding council tax in the last 12 months. [37336]

Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has identified eight written representations from groups exclusively representing pensioners on council tax in the last 12 months. Issues raised include the effect of council tax bills on pensioners on low and fixed incomes; council tax benefit; and reform of the local government finance system.

We recognise the concerns expressed in these representations and many other letters from individual pensioners. Sir Michael Lyons is considering such issues in his Inquiry into the funding of local government within the context of its wider functions and future role. We look forward to receiving Sir Michael Lyons' recommendations at the end of 2006.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what advice and guidance the Valuation Office Agency has given to local authority IT (a) departments and (b) suppliers in relation to the council tax revaluation in (i) England and (ii) Wales. [29709]

Mr. Woolas: The information is as follows:

Councillors (Pensions/Income)

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what changes his Department and its predecessors have made to the (a) allowances, (b) salaries and (c) pensions for councillors since May 1997. [33486]

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Mr. Woolas: Since May 1997 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has made a number of changes to the rules relating to allowances and pensions for councillors. There is no provision for the payment of salaries to councillors.

The principal effects of these changes are as follows:


Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 16 November 2005, Official Report, column 1276W, on damages, if he will list the cases where the potential liabilities and damages were of such significance that the cases were brought to ministerial attention. [34395]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No cases fell into this category in the last year.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps are taken by the Department to support staff with mental ill-health. [36266]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) supports staff with mental ill-health while they are at work, while they are absent because of their illness and during their return to work. ODPM has an in-house Counselling and Support Service and a contracted out Occupational Health Adviser both of which offer support and advice. Additionally line managers and Human Resources offer support and advice to staff with mental ill-health.

Fire Services

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government's plans for regional fire control centres will require London to have a new fire control centre. [31789]

Jim Fitzpatrick: London already has a regional fire control room, which would be capable of being linked into the national network of regional centres. However, the London regional control centre was planned and set up before the events of 9/11 and before the current resilience criteria were drawn up. Consequently, it does not meet the resilience standards that the new control centres in the other regions will meet. Decisions on whether to move the existing regional control centre will be made in discussion with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

LFEPA recently affirmed their support of the Fire Control project.

Firelink Procurement Process

David Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the outcome of the Firelink procurement process will be announced. [37334]

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Jim Fitzpatrick: The announcement of the Firelink preferred bidder was made on 11 November 2005. Subject to satisfactory resolution of some outstanding matters it is anticipated that the contract will be signed after the new year.

Identity Cards

Lynne Jones: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the (a) total and (b) net cost of (i) integrating the proposed identity card scheme into his Department's IT systems and (ii) the ongoing operation of the scheme within his Department. [31121]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The overwhelming majority of the services which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) oversees are administered by local authorities, and ODPM is working with them to develop a business case for authentication and verification management, which could include use of the identity card. ODPM is represented on the ministerial committee on identity cards which oversees the work on benefits planning and realisation.

Land Charge Searches

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will give local councils the power to increase the price of personal land charge searches. [36583]

Bridget Prentice: I have been asked to reply.

Fees payable for personal searches of the local land charges register are set by the Lord Chancellor, with the consent of HM Treasury, under the Local Land Charges Act 1975. Keith Hill announced the Government's intention to review this arrangement on 10 February 2004, [Standing Committee E Report] column 574. We are now re-considering the form and content of the review in the light of the report by the Office of Fair Trading of their study into the market for property searches. The OFT report was published on 21 September.

The Lord Chancellor's fees-setting power for all local land charges services in Wales, including personal search fees, was devolved to the National Assembly for Wales on 31 December 2004.

Media Monitoring

Philip Davies: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much his Office and its predecessor Departments spent on media monitoring activities in each of the last eight financial years. [35630]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created on 29 May 2002. Information in relation to its predecessor Departments is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Costs (£000—exclusive of VAT) are as follows:
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National press cuttingsRegional press cuttingsMedia monitoring unit (subscription to Cabinet Office)
2002–03 (1 June-31 March)151.454.130.1
2005–06 (1 April-30 September)110.139.426.5

Neighbourhood Renewal Fund

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the performance rating is of each local strategic partnership in receipt of neighbourhood renewal fund resources. [37172]

Mr. Woolas: Local strategic partnerships are not awarded performance ratings, rather each LSP carries out a self assessment of performance against national PSA floor targets and local targets in addition to a review of their partnership management arrangements. This self assessment then helps inform the key areas for improvement. Each LSP awards itself an overall traffic light' assessment which reflects both progress made and challenges faced by each LSP. LSPs are encouraged to share these assessments at a local level—however at a
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national level we can say that 36 percent. have self assessed as 'green', 46 percent. as 'amber green' and 18 percent. as 'amber red'. The neighbourhood renewal unit plan to produce a full list of all assessments early in the New Year.

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