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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what research the Government have commissioned on the use of geographic information systems for mass appraisal of residential property in the last five years; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned, in 2003, the development of a generalised land use database (GLUD), which identifies the location of nine land use types, including residential. Further details of this ongoing work can be found on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website under Research and Statistics, Planning Research and Statistics, Planning Statistics, Generalised Land Use Database (URL: http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1146084).
In addition to GLUD, DCLG have explored, and continue to explore, the suitability of a range of geographic information, including commercial products, new build intelligence from Ordnance Survey and the collation of local authority planning information to improve assessments of residential development.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans the Government have (a) to increase density targets for new residential development and (b) to reclassify the brownfield designation of gardens in residential properties. 
Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on 7 February 2006, Official Report, columns 1140-41W, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mr. Byers) on 6 March 2006, Official Report, column 1164W.
Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans there are to assist councils which do not have access to existing investment options to meet the decent homes standard. 
Yvette Cooper: The Government have increased investment available for all councils to invest in their stock. Since 1997 the cash available to councils for repairs, maintenance and refurbishment has increased by 30 per cent. per house. 94 local authorities are able to meet the decent homes standard on the basis of this investment. On top of this the Government have made available further options for bringing in additional investment through Arm's Length Management Organisations, Private Finance Initiative or stock transfers. There will be a further bidding round for these options.
John Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what initiatives she is pursuing to encourage affordable housing developments in Easington constituency; and if she will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper: The Government are working in partnership with local authorities in the region, including Easington district council, to achieve a better balance between housing availability and the demand for housing, including improving affordability. Among the measures which have been employed in Easington has been the successful transfer of their housing stock to East Durham Homes and successful on-going progress towards achieving the decent homes standard. The work has allowed housing which was previously vacant to be brought back into use and has improved the quality of the stock generally.
In addition to this, the Housing Corporation have made available £7 million over the last three years to provide 140 new affordable housing units in Easington. English Partnerships are working with the Durham Coalfield Housing Renewal Partnership with strategic proposals to assist in the regeneration of settlements within the former coalfield areas. A strategy is being
drawn up which should facilitate significant investment in these areas including the provision of affordable housing.
The Government have also introduced changes to lessen the impact of Right-to-Buy through the Housing Act 2004 through extending the initial qualification period, extending the period that owners need to repay all or some of their discount and the requirement for owners selling homes within 10 years to offer the properties back to a local social landlord. The Government Office for the North East continues to work with Easington district council and other partners including the Regional Housing Board to address housing issues in the area.
Margaret Moran: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what was the level of Housing Corporation grant available for (a) general needs housing and (b) sheltered/OAP housing in each of the last five years. 
|Approved development programme expenditure by year (£ million)|
|General needs||Of which :sheltered housing for OAPs|
Information on the number of individuals in Government-subsidised housing is not available centrally. Information on the number of council homes and Registered Social Landlord units and bed spaces is published on the ODPM website. Table 115 gives the RSL rented stock by local authority from 1997 and is available at:
Andrew George: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much of the £970 million for shared equity housing announced by the Chancellor in his Budget statement on 21 March was new money not previously announced or budgeted for before that announcement. 
The £970 million forms part of the 2006-08 Regional Housing Pot of which Regional Housing Boards recommended that around £3.9 billion be channelled through the Housing Corporations Affordable Housing Programme for the provision of affordable housing between 2006-08. The announcement provided details on how one element of the Affordable Housing Programme would be spent.
Jane Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what resources are being deployed by the Audit Commission to ensure that Liverpool city council social services department complies with national standards of service delivery in care of (a) the elderly and (b) vulnerable adults. 
Mr. Woolas: The Audit Commission is not the body responsible for ensuring national standards are being met in Liverpool city councils social services department. That responsibility falls to the Commission for Social Care Inspection, which is the independent inspectorate in England responsible for regulating and inspecting all social care providers, whether in the public or independent sector.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the impact of councillors' allowances on the efficient operation of local government in England and Wales; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: No assessment has been made of the sort referred to. It is a matter for each local authority to draw up its own scheme for councillors' allowances, having regard to the recommendations of its remuneration panel.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps the Government are taking to ensure that local authorities are (a) efficient, (b) transparent and (c) accountable. 
Mr. Woolas: Councils have an annual 2.5 per cent. efficiency target. A guide to the assistance available and update on the substantial progress made is contained in the report Delivering Efficiency in Local Services: One Year On, published February 2006 and available at: www.rcoe.gov.uk/rce/aio/16537
Local government is indeed transparent and accountable for efficiency. Annual efficiency statements
are published by each council and may be accessed at: www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=l 134484
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance the Government have given to local authorities on (a) contract compliance and (b) imposing conditions in the procurement process unrelated to cost, quality or quantity of services. 
Mr. Woolas: Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988 prevents authorities from introducing non-commercial considerations, such as the political affiliations of contractors, into the procurement process.
There is a range of advice and guidance on good procurement which local authorities can draw on. Sources include the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the Public Private Partnership Programme (the 4ps) and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA). Specific guidance on local government procurement includes the joint ODPM/ Local Government Association National Procurement Strategy for Local Government. This makes clear that council requirements can also include social, environmental and other strategic objectives that are relevant to the subject of the contract.
Mr. Woolas: My Department has commissioned a consortium led by the Office for Public Management to evaluate the negotiation process and initial impacts of pilot and second round local area agreements (LAAs). The first report is available at http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=l161635. A second report will be published in the summer.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Meriden of 26 April 2006, Official Report, column 1198W, on local government finance, if she will place in the Library a copy of the accompanying manual and documentation for the toolkit in (a) hard copy and (b) CD-rom. 
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding was allocated to My Society in each of the last five years; and what other support has been provided to the organisation. 
Further support of £163,150 was made available to the organisation through the e-Innovations Product
and Marketisation strand via Kirklees MBC who were grant aided to carry out this role on behalf of the Local e-Government Programme.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she will reply to question 63872, on shared equity housing, tabled by the hon. Member for St. Ives on 30 March. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures are being taken by her Department to avoid a shortfall in funding for individual passenger transport authorities to cover the cost in future years of the concessionary bus travel scheme announced in the 2005 Budget. 
Mr. Woolas: Funding for the concessionary bus travel scheme announced in the 2005 Budget has been distributed to councils through formula grant, which is unhypothecated. It is up to councils to decide how to use their resources, consistent with delivering their statutory responsibilities. In the case of Tyne and Wear, I have had a number of discussions with stakeholders to explore whether a local solution can be found to address particular local issues.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of towns in England which pedestrianised their town centres and subsequently opened them up to (a) all vehicles and (b) buses and taxis only; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment her Department has made of the effect of the implementation of special protection areas on the planning process. 
Yvette Cooper: Special protection areas (SPAs), designated under the EC birds directive, receive statutory protection through the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994. Since 1994
planning policy has reflected the statutory protection given to SPAs, and planning permission for development which will have a significant effect on them can only be given in tightly defined circumstances. Details are set out in the joint ODPM/DEFRA circular: Biodiversity and Geological ConservationStatutory obligations and their impact within the planning system (ODPM June 2005, DEFRA January 2005).
For the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, the Government have been working in partnership with English Nature, the South East England Regional Assembly, local authorities and other stakeholders to develop a strategic approach to the assessment of planning applications that could impact on the SPA. The Governments aim is to ensure the delivery of much needed housing, while ensuring that the SPA is given appropriate protection.
Yvette Cooper: A list of all planning applications called in by the Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessor departments since 1 April 1999 has been placed in the Library ofthe House. Information on cases called in before1 April 1999, when the Planning Inspectorate database became operational, could only be compiled at disproportionate cost.
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the amount which will be raised by the proposed planning gain supplement to fund local infrastructure. 
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