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Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not has any discussion with Abbeygate Developments about the possibility of building a casino in Milton Keynes. Any such discussion of whether Milton Keynes could have a license for a casino of this nature would be a matter for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Milton Keynes council and other local stakeholders.
|Number of deliberate school fires|
Mr. Stewart Jackson:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will meet hon. Members and representatives from Cambridgeshire constabulary,
27 Feb 2006 : Column 162W
Cambridgeshire fire and rescue and Peterborough city council to discuss strategies to combat incidences of arson in the Greater Peterborough area. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: One of the most powerful deterrents in the fight against arson is the fear of detection. The Fire Investigation Dog team can therefore play a significant role by helping the police and fire and rescue services to identify the cause, development and spread of fire and by detecting the presence of accelerants.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the percentage of households in each London borough equipped with (a) carbon monoxide alarms and (b) fire alarms. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: Information on the percentage of households in each London borough equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms is not held centrally, and can be given only at a disproportionate cost.
In 200405, an estimated 70 per cent. of all households in London were equipped with at least one working smoke alarm. By the end of 2005, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority had installed 23,212 smoke alarms in vulnerable households through the Government funded Home Fire Risk Check Initiative since its establishment in October 2004.
Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not issued any guidance to local authorities on handling compensation claims-compensation claims against a local authority are matters for local authorities to handle.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs is coordinating a programme of work across Government to prevent a compensation culture from developing; tackle perceptions that can lead to a disproportionate fear of litigation and risk averse behaviour; find ways to discourage and resist bad claims; and improve the system for those with a valid claim for compensation. The ODPM is contributing to this work.
Mr. Woolas: Claims for compensation made against a local authority are matters for local authorities to handle. However, the Department for Constitutional Affairs is coordinating a cross Government programme of work to tackle perceptions of a compensation culture and to improve the system for valid claims. Part of this work involves promoting appropriate and proportionate risk management; encouraging defendants such as local authorities to resist bad claims; and making the system more timely, proportionate and cost-effective for valid claims. The ODPM, along with other central departments, is feeding into this work.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average pay awards were for (a) district councils, (b) borough councils, (c) city councils, (d) London borough councils and (e) county councils in each year from 1997 to 2005. 
Mark Hunter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people were prosecuted for non-payment of council tax in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what proportion of those prosecuted were pensioners. 
Mr. Woolas: Non-payment of council tax is not a criminal offence. If the appropriate reminder notices have been sent and a debt remains unpaid, a local billing authority may apply to the magistrates court for a Liability Order which formally establishes that there is a debt. The Liability Order enables enforcement action to be taken.
Mr. Woolas: Details of the annual percentage change in the average council tax bill for a Band D property with two adults for each year since 199798 are published in Table 2.2e of Local Government Financial Statistics England No 16, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House and on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website at:
Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has now delivered an above inflation grant increase to local government for 10 successive years, which will ensure that they can provide a high level of service without placing excessive demands on their council tax payers. Pensioners will benefit from this along with everyone else. The ODPM has also made clear that we will not hesitate to use our capping powers to deal with excessive increases if this proves necessary.
Help with council tax bills is available for those who are least well off through council tax benefit. Nearly two and a half million people aged 60 or over now benefit from this. The Government are actively working to ensure that people who are entitled to this benefit get it.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what procedure should be followed by a billing authority in circumstances where a householder has claimed a council tax discount for which they are not eligible. 
Mr. Woolas: Billing authorities are under a duty to collect all the council tax due to them and take reasonable steps to ensure that council tax discounts and exemptions are properly awarded. If it comes to light that a householder is being given a council tax discount or exemption to which they are not entitled, then the authority should bill the householder for the additional liability for the period where it can be demonstrated that the same circumstances have applied.
Billing authorities have the power to impose a penalty of £50 where taxpayers fail to notify them within 21 days that a discount or exemption should no longer apply. Where a person claims a discount or exemption to which they know that they are not entitled, then they may also be subject to prosecution under the Theft Act 1968 for obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.
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