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16 Feb 2006 : Column 2214W—continued

Building Regulations

Dr. Whitehead: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will lay the statutory instrument to bring Part L of the building regulations into force. [50936]

Yvette Cooper: In the press release of 13 September 2005 I announced that changes to Part L of the building regulations were being introduced two years early in April 2006. The statutory instrument will be laid in sufficient time to allow this to happen.

Building Standards

Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will reassess the (a) Building Regulations and (b) Structural Engineering Requirements for proposed new buildings using design methods and materials similar to those in the building which collapsed in Katowice, Poland, on 28 January; and if he will make a statement; [47777]

(2) if he will require local authorities to reassess the structural strength of new buildings which have been erected in England using design methods and materials similar to those in the building which collapsed in Katowice, Poland, on 28 January; and if he will make a statement. [47778]

Yvette Cooper: The cause of the recent collapse of the Polish exhibition centre roof is not yet known, although early reports indicate that snow loading was probably a contributory factor. While the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister remains vigilant to any reported building collapses so as to ensure a low probability of such an incident occurring in the UK, adequate safeguards on achieving minimum requirements for stability and robustness are provided in the Building Regulations Approved Document Part A and the relevant British Standards codes of practice which they reference. Based on the current evidence there is no need to instigate any checks on buildings here in the UK arising from the Polish building collapse.

Business Rates

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the average business rates bill in England in 2005–06. [51080]

Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on the 13 February 2006, Official Report, column 1630W.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will provide additional funding to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough fire authority to take account of the additional service requirement resulting from Peterborough's increase in size. [49286]

Mr. Woolas: The local government finance settlements for 2006–07 and 2007–08 laid before the House on the 31 January 2006 include the use of
 
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population projections as the dominant data drivers of population in the settlements. The population projections used are Office for National Statistics (ONS) trend based projections based on the ONS mid-2003 population estimates. This will make the settlement more forward looking as the projections reflect demographic trends seen in an area.

These projections do not take into account events that have not yet occurred, such as population change as a result of proposed housing expansion, as these are affected by future policy changes or local decisions. As part of its response to the independent review of housing supply produced by Kate Barker, the Government have announced a cross-cutting review within the 2007 comprehensive spending review to ensure that appropriate infrastructure will be provided to support housing and population growth. The review will: determine the social, transport and environmental infrastructure implications of housing growth in different spatial forms and locations; establish a framework for sustainable and cost-effective patterns of growth, including be examining the use of targeted investment through the community infrastructure fund and growth areas funding to support the fastest growing areas; and ensure that departmental resources across government are targeted appropriately for providing the national, regional and local infrastructure necessary to support future housing and population growth.

Correspondence

Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what advice and guidance he has given to (a) local councils and (b) the Audit Commission on the way in which local councils should deal with hon. Members' correspondence on behalf of constituents regarding planning applications. [42217]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not provided any advice in this area.

Council Housing

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will institute an inquiry into the conduct of Sefton council in relation to each of the two ballots of tenants on the transfer of council housing held by the council. [39421]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 9 January 2006]: Sefton council has not yet applied for consent to transfer its housing stock. When it does so the council will need to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that a majority of its tenants are not opposed to the transfer going ahead, including providing information about the two ballots.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what criteria he applies in considering the results of multiple ballots of the same tenants on a single large scale voluntary transfer of council housing; and how he intends to deal with those circumstances in Sefton in August and November. [39423]

Yvette Cooper: When a local authority applies for consent to transfer its housing stock it is for the authority to satisfy the Secretary of State on the range of criteria set out in section 16.2 of the Housing Transfer Manual 2005"—a copy is available in the Library. The
 
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application for consent should be received by the office at least six weeks before the transfer is due to be completed.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether (a) his Department, (b) his housing action team and (c) the Regional Housing Board was consulted by Sefton council about a second tenants' ballot on the large scale voluntary transfer proposal. [39431]

Yvette Cooper: Sefton council informed the Office and the Community Housing Task Force of their decision to re-ballot tenants on their large scale voluntary transfer proposal. Sefton council did not inform the Regional Housing Board of their decision.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many local authorities have been authorised to build new council housing in the last five years; and how this new housing will be financed. [41148]

Yvette Cooper: Local authorities continue to have the powers to build houses and indeed are doing so under the housing private finance initiative. It has also proved possible for local authorities to use council tax revenue to finance specific housing projects.

Council Tax Benefit

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the (a) incentives and (b) disincentives to save arising from the fixing since 1999 of the savings threshold for ineligibility for (i)council tax benefit at £16,000 and (ii) reductions of council tax benefit at £3,000. [51563]

Mr. Plaskitt: I have been asked to reply.

No such assessments have been made. The treatment of capital in council tax benefit is kept under review to ensure that it strikes a sensible balance between providing targeted support and not penalising those who have saved.

The lower capital limit is £6,000 for pensioners, and will be raised to £6,000 for other people from April 2006. There is no upper capital limit in council tax benefit for people who receive the guarantee element of pension credit.

Departmental Staff

Kate Hoey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans his Office has to change the London allowance of its staff; and if he will make a statement. [50006]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The office does not pay a London allowance to its staff. For staff below the senior civil service (SCS), London weighting was consolidated into salaries some years ago. The SCS does not distinguish between London and other pay.

Development (Brownfield Land)

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what percentage of new housing development in (a) each borough council in Hampshire, (b) Portsmouth and (c) Southampton has been on brownfield land in each year since 1997. [50573]


 
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Yvette Cooper [holding answer 13 February 2006]: The estimates available centrally are from Land Use Change Statistics, are shown in the following table. The percentages for individual local authorities tend to be
 
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highly variable from one year to another as they can be affected by the characteristics of just one or two large developments. The table also shows the averages over four years.
New dwellings on previously developed land, Hampshire 1997 to 2004
Percentage

Average
199719981999200020012002200320041997–20002001–04
Basingstoke and Deane12594728542743343640
East Hampshire46556144635873795169
Eastleigh62366056746084885582
Fareham62333356496685944776
Gosport80918987483217608641
Hart74278937183647395236
Havant32312469749656973378
New Forest69545576815268856468
Rushmoor4293999291100871007595
Test Valley10212735414463821953
Winchester80466860915968746669
Portsmouth639294619893100907594
Southampton90748545896795997590
Hampshire52525957645566785466


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