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26 Jun 2006 : Column 47W—continued

Contracted-out Rebates

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of Government liabilities in respect of the deemed buy-back of contracted-out rebates. [78310]

Ed Balls: I have been asked to reply.

This information is not available. Where individuals opt for deemed buy-back any entitlement to state second pension (S2P) will be paid from the National Insurance Fund when they reach state pension age. Separate estimates for S2P paid under this arrangement cannot be made.

Council Tax Benefit

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the take-up rate of council tax benefit was in (a) Peterborough constituency and (b) Peterborough city council area in each year since 1996-97; and how many pensioners (i) were entitled to and (ii) received council tax benefit in each year. [77910]

Mr. Plaskitt: Estimates of take-up and entitlement for council tax benefit are not available below national level; the latest available information is in “Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2003/2004”, a copy of which is in the Library.

Figures for the number of council tax benefit claimants are not available broken down by parliamentary constituency. Figures for pensioners in receipt of council tax benefit are not available prior to 2004. The available information is in the following table.

Council tax benefit recipients aged 60 and over: Peterborough city council
November Number of recipients





1. The data refer to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple.
2. Caseloads have been rounded to the nearest 10.
3. Council tax benefit totals exclude any second adult rebate cases.
4. ‘Aged 60 and over' is defined as benefit units where the claimant and/or partner are aged 60 and over. Therefore figures will contain some claimants aged under 60 where there is a partner aged over 60 years.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent. caseload stock-count taken in November 2004 and November 2005.

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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the annual outturn for council tax benefit was in each year since 1997; and what the forecasts are for each of the next five years. [79588]

Mr. Plaskitt: Forecasts are currently published up to 2007-08. The available information for Great Britain is in the tables; information regarding Northern Ireland is a matter for the Northern Ireland Office.

Council tax benefit expenditure, Great Britain, 1997-98 to 2007-08 (nominal terms)
Amount (£ million)























(1) Outturn.
(2) Estimated outturn.
(3) Plans.

Council tax benefit expenditure, Great Britain, 1997-98 to 2007-08 (real terms, 2006-07 prices)
Amount (£ million)























(1) Outturn.
(2) Estimated outturn.
(3) Plans.
1. Figures are on a resource accounting and budgeting basis.
2. Some figures for past years may have changed since previous publications owing to the incorporation of more up-to-date information.
3. Expenditure for 2005-06 reflects the latest benefit-by-benefit estimate of outturn, and not the amounts voted by Parliament.
4. Total amounts paid to beneficiaries, irrespective of the source of funding. Includes benefit spending reimbursed by DWP, spending on rent rebates financed within local authorities’ Housing Revenue Accounts, and benefit spending financed from local authorities' general funds.
5. Real terms have been calculated using gross domestic product deflators updated after the Budget report of 22 March 2006.

Departmental Chief Accounting Officer

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) name, (b) professional and academic qualifications and (c) relevant experience are of the Chief Accounting Officer of his Department. [76838]

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Mrs. McGuire: The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Leigh Lewis (BA, MIPD), is the Principal Accounting Officer of the Department for Work and Pensions. Earlier in his career he was the Finance Director of the then Department for Education and Employment.

The Accounting Officer is a role that the Permanent Secretary combines with his personal responsibility for the overall organisation, management and staffing of the Department and for Department-wide procedures in financial and other matters. The Accounting Officer is assisted in the discharge of these duties by suitably qualified and experienced senior managers, including the Director General for Finance for the Department, John Codling, who is a Chartered Public Finance Accountant and holds a BA (Hons) degree in Economics.

Employment (Over-50s)

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to increase the number of people in work aged 50 years and over in the Kingston and Surbiton constituency. [74779]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Like all other customers, people aged 50 and over can benefit from the range of services provided by Jobcentre Plus, including access to jobs and help and support to find work.

Additional help is provided to older people who do not find work quickly. New deal 50 plus is a voluntary programme that provides people with advice and guidance from personal advisers, and access to in-work financial help through the 50 plus element of the working tax credit. Since April 2000, the programme has been successful in helping more than 150,000 older workers into employment, including 150 people in Kingston and Surbiton. Once in work, new deal 50 plus customers can claim a training grant of up to £1,500 for training of which up to £300 can be used for life-long learning.

People aged 50 and over, including those in Kingston and Surbiton, are also eligible for help from new deal 25 plus. People who have been claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) for 18 months, and who have not previously participated on new deal 25 plus, are already required to attend the gateway stage of the new deal 25 plus programme. This is a period of up to four months of intensive job search and specialist help and support to improve job prospects. This is followed by the intensive activity period (IAP) which is currently voluntary for people aged 50 and over. The IAP provides further support and pre-work training to help people return to work.

Since April 2004, we have been piloting mandatory participation in the new deal 25 plus IAP for people aged 50 to 59 who have been claiming JSA for 18 months. The pilot has offered people in this age group more extensive help back to work. Kingston and Surbiton was not part of the pilot, however, interim pilot data have yielded positive results and, as announced in our Welfare Reform Green Paper, we will be commencing a phased national rollout.

Between 1979 and the mid 1990s, the number of people on incapacity benefits trebled. Growth in the
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caseload has since slowed significantly, and in November 2005, there were 2.71 million people claiming incapacity benefits, a fall of 61,000 over the year. Although 46 per cent. of those claiming incapacity benefits are aged between 50 and state pension age, between 2000 and 2005 the number of people in the 50 plus age group fell by 52,000. This has contributed to the overall reduction in the incapacity benefits caseload.

Like other age groups, people aged 50 or over who are on IB will be able to benefit from the rollout of the successful Pathways to Work service across the whole country which will be completed by 2008, including Kingston and Surbiton. Pathways offers new IB customers early support from skilled personal advisers and direct access to a ‘Choices Package’ of employment programmes and clear financial incentives to make work pay. Any IB customer will be able to access the support and help available on a voluntary basis.

Our Age Positive Campaign works with employers and others to promote the business benefits of an age diverse work force and best practice in recruitment, training and promotion. In May 2005 we launched the ‘Be Ready’ national information campaign to raise employer awareness of, and ability to adopt, flexible employment and retirement opportunities to support the recruitment and retention of older workers in advance of age legislation due in October 2006.

Employment Rates

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the role of area-based activities by his Department in increasing local employment rates. [72250]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Area-based employment initiatives continue to be important, particularly in our most deprived communities. The Department’s priority is to ensure that all initiatives are more effectively targeted at those with the greatest degree of labour market disadvantage. This means that we constantly have to review our programmes and services to ensure that they provide good value for money and continue to meet the needs of our customers. Area-based initiatives such as Action Teams and the Working Neighbourhoods Pilot have, to date, helped over 170,000 people in some of our most deprived communities move into work.

Many of the practices and ideas developed by Action Teams have been integrated into Jobcentre Plus mainstream programmes and services. Examples include outreach work in local communities and the greater discretionary funding that is available to advisers. We also aim to build on lessons learnt from the recent Working Neighbourhoods Pilot.

Our successful Pathways to Work pilots have been acknowledged internationally as the best way of helping people on incapacity benefits back into work quickly and many of the pilots are located in areas with high levels of incapacity benefit claims. Much of the success of Pathways is directly attributable to the partnership approach at the local level with strong advocacy from local partners, access to a wide range of specialist expertise, and a unified complementary approach. It is this partnership approach that we are
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extending further with our Cities Strategy. Private and voluntary sector providers currently deliver and support a number of different programmes within our Pathways to Work pilots. We will shortly be announcing the future roll-out of Pathways.

Our future strategy will build on the success of Action Teams, and other community-based initiatives; including the introduction of a Deprived Areas Fund (DAF) from October 2006, which will provide Jobcentre Plus with the flexibility to decide how funding could add value locally against a continued central objective of increasing the employment rate in the local areas. This fund will enable districts to target resources where they are most needed. Funding will be allocated at a district level, to enable Jobcentre Plus District Managers to exercise greater discretion over how the funding should be utilised in their area. DMs will use their knowledge of the local labour market, coupled with evidence of ‘what works’ to support the needs of local residents.

Partnership working with local government is especially important to DWP in promoting the economic vitality of localities. Local area agreements (LAAs) have been devised to provide a common and simple framework that leads to central Government, local authorities and partners agreeing local outcomes.

On 16 March 2005 the Chancellor announced the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI). Its purpose is to release the economic and productivity potential of the most deprived local areas through enterprise and investment—thereby boosting local incomes and employment opportunities and building sustainable communities. The proposed fund will distribute up to £50 million per year for 2006-07 rising to £150 million by 2008-09, and will be distributed through local area agreements (LAA).

As proposed in the Green Paper, the creation of ‘Cities’ pathfinders from 2007 will be charged with increasing employment and reducing social exclusion in our most deprived communities. In these areas, a consortium of local partners will be invited to join up and plan the delivery of their individual efforts and resources, with a strong focus on outcomes combined with greater opportunity for local flexibility and innovation. This approach will provide a real focus for local efforts to help people move back into work, so that the current patchwork of programmes and support, provided by a number of organisations, can be delivered in a more integrated, individually-focused and locally responsive way.

The Deprived Areas Fund, along with our strategy for ‘Cities’ and local area agreements will play a significant role in increasing local employment rates; ensuring those most disadvantaged in the labour market can receive the help and guidance they deserve.

Financial Assistance Scheme

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures the Department is putting in place to speed up payments to those eligible under the Financial Assistance Scheme; and if he will make a statement. [78291]

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James Purnell: In response to discussions with the pension scheme trustees responsible for applying to the Financial Assistance Scheme, we have simplified the information we need from schemes and clarified our guidance on the member data we require. We have also held meetings with over 75 per cent. of schemes with members potentially eligible for initial payments to ensure they understand what information is required and when.

Following these improvements to communications with trustees, over the last month the number of schemes applying for initial payments has increased to 146 and the number of members being paid initial payments has increased to 95, with an additional four members being paid annual payments.

On 6 June we announced a review of the administration of the Financial Assistance Scheme, which will look at what we need to do to provide the best administration and management support to ensure all eligible people receive payments as quickly as possible.

Foreign Travel

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent on foreign travel by his Department in each of the last eight years. [76065]

Mrs. McGuire: The departmental spend on foreign travel for the year 2004 was £747,013.53. The spend for 2005 was £954,648.56.

We are unable to provide factual information for previous years due to disproportionate cost.

Housing Benefit

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate has been made of the percentage of housing benefit claimants renting from private landlords who had benefit shortfalls in the county borough of Bridgend in each year from 1997-98 to 2005-06. [75360]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information is not available broken down below national level in Wales. The available information for Wales is in the table.

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