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Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the current arrangements are regarding council tax on holiday homes; whether the Lyons Commission is considering changes to those arrangements; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: Local billing authorities can set the council tax discount on second homes at any point between 50 per cent. and 10 per cent. Second homes are dwellings which are furnished and no-one's main residence. Dwellings which are intended to be let on a self-catering basis for short periods totalling 140 days or more a year are subject to non-domestic (business) rates.
Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is making good progress. In the ODPM press notice of 13 September, I announced changes to the building regulations and the implementation of the technical provisions of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. These measures come into effect in April 2006.
There is a three-year derogation period within the directive to apply fully the other procedural provisions requiring the provision of information. Government have signalled that they propose to use this derogation as there are not sufficient numbers of suitably qualified inspectors in place.
The introduction of the home inspection pack in June 2007 and associated training of Home Inspectors will cover requirements of the directive for the marketed sales of dwellings. The ODPM is engaging with industry stakeholders to establish a sufficient number of suitably qualified inspectors to support a phased programme of implementation in other sectors.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimates that the number of home inspectors required will be between 5,000 and 7,400. This estimate has been developed in consultation with the industry, and it will be kept under review. Over 2,500 home inspectors are already trained or being trained, and expect the number coming forward to increase progressively now that the ODPM has announced an implementation date of 1 June 2007.
27 Feb 2006 : Column 178W
Yvette Cooper: Home information packs will improve the home buying process by making it more transparent and by reducing the current high rate of transaction failure and the associated wasted costs that are currently costing consumers over £1 million per day. The pack will also help achieve our goal of sustainable home ownership by ensuring that home buyers are not faced with unexpected repairs and other commitments they cannot afford.
Yvette Cooper: The Government intend to introduce home information packs in phases, which will allow industry to test fully their systems and processes in a voluntary environment to ensure the smooth implementation of mandatory packs on 1 June 2007. We are discussing with stakeholders the best way to do this, and intend to publish a timetable following these discussions.
Yvette Cooper: Information about local authorities' actions under homelessness legislation is collected in respect of applicant households, and distinguishes the number accepted as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in a priority need category. Households containing persons considered vulnerable as a result of a mental disability and, since July 2002, persons vulnerable as a result of having served in Her Majesty's regular armed forces have a priority need.
The number of households accepted as homeless in these two categories by English local authorities during 200405, and during the first six months of 200506, and the percentage that these represent of all acceptances, is presented in the following table. These figures will not necessarily represent all homelessness acceptances involving ex-forces personnel or those with mental health problems, as some may be concealed within other main priority need categoriessuch as households with dependent children, or an expectant mother.
|Local authority acceptances(55) where the main|
category of priority need was reported(56) as
Vulnerability as a result of ..:
|having served in HM|
|mental illness or|
|households accepted in|
Information is also collected on the number of people who sleep rough, that is, those with no fixed abode who are literally roofless. As at June 2005 there were an estimated 459 people sleeping rough in England on any one single night, the lowest ever recorded figure. In 2001, a survey estimated that 14 per cent. of rough sleepers had served in the forces at some point in their lives, although more recent analysis suggest this has fallen to 10 per cent.
A 1996 study found that just over half of people sleeping rough using day centres had symptoms indicative of common mental health problems, while a 2002 survey commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that between a third and a half of rough sleepers have mental health problems.
Yvette Cooper: The Government's understanding of the causes of homelessness and the actions that can be taken to tackle it more effectively was summarised in 2005 in the strategy for tackling homelessness, Sustainable Communities: settled homes, changing lives". This endorsed the analysis in the 2002 report More than a roof". Homelessness is caused by a number of factors, some of which relate to the wider state of the economy and the housing market and others which are personal to the individual or family, or reflect social and demographic change.
The overall supply of affordable housing is a key structural factor and the Government are increasing investment to deliver 75,000 social rented homes and 40,000 homes for essential public sector workers and low cost home ownership by 2008. Options for making greater use of the private rented sector as a source of settled solutions for homeless households are also being developed.
Local authorities are asked to record the reasons when they accept a household as being unintentionally homeless and in priority need. The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for England (for the third quarter of 2005) are on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website. The most important recorded reasons are parents, relatives or friends no longer willing to accommodate the household, the breakdown of a relationship with a partner and the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy. Since 2002 the Government have promoted an increasing emphasis on developing
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innovative approaches to the prevention of homelessness. Successful approaches to homelessness prevention have been developed to address the presenting problems of households approaching local authorities, for example mediation to resolve family and relationship breakdown and rent deposit schemes to provide access to the private rented sector.
It is recognised that the recorded reasons often obscure a complex chain of events that preceded the homelessness acceptance. At present relatively little is known about the personal, social and economic circumstances of homeless families and other vulnerable people accepted by local authorities, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is undertaking further research to improve understanding of the deeper social and personal issues involved. To address this gap in the evidence base the ODPM is currently conducting a major survey of households with children and of young people accepted as homeless by local authorities on the causes, impacts and costs of homelessness. This study will report in the summer of 2006 and results will be published later this year.
Justine Greening: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate his Department has made of homelessness in (a) 200405, (b) 200506 and (c) 200607, in each London borough; and if he will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 9 February 2006]: Information collected quarterly on the number of decisions made by local authorities on applications for assistance under homelessness legislation, includes the number of households accepted as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need. Also reported is the number of households in temporary accommodation arranged by local authorities under homelessness legislation as at the end of each quarter. These figures at local authority, regional and national level are included in a supplementary table to the Statistical Release on homelessness, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister each quarter.
Summary information is presented in the following table for each London borough for 200405 and for the first six months of 200506; results for the fourth quarter (October-December) 2005 will be published in a Statistical Release on 13 March.
Estimates of the number of people who sleep rough, that is, those who are literally roofless on a single night, are also published by the Department and the estimates for 2005 are also presented in the table.
|London borough||Households accepted during 200405||Households in TA(59) at 31 March 2005||Rough sleepers(60) (persons) 2004||Households accepted during April-September 2005||Households in TA(59) at 30 September 2005||Rough sleepers(60) (persons) 2005|
|Barking and Dagenham||775||474||0||210||477||0|
|City of London||31||34||22||12||26||12|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||653||1,825||3||239||1,650||2|
|Kensington and Chelsea||589||1,196||10||178||1,199||12|
|Kingston upon Thames||n/a||n/a||0||122||745||0|
|Richmond upon Thames||279||458||0||143||418||0|
Yvette Cooper: In addition to the guidance given to my hon. Friend on 16 February 2006, Official Report, column 2225W, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be publishing a Guide to Good Practice in Homelessness Prevention in the next three months.
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