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Mr. Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what factors were taken into account when setting the cap on the discount available to council house residents in the North West who buy their homes; what assessment was made of variations in house prices between areas in the North West when setting the cap; and if she will take steps to adjust the cap annually in line with house price inflation. 
The Government have no plans to change uprating to Right to Buy discount limits. However, it has invited local authorities to consider offering those tenants who are unable to afford outright ownership the opportunity to purchase a share in their homes, under the new Social HomeBuy scheme which it introduced in April 2006. Local authorities may retain all the receipts from sales under Social HomeBuy, to reinvest in affordable housing.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the causes of changes in the level of council taxes since 1997-98 in (a) London and (b) England. 
By 2007-08, the increase in Government grant for local services, since taking office, will be 39 per cent. in real terms and we remain committed to protecting local people from excessive increases in council tax.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will rank each local authority in England by the percentage of total expenditure met by (a) council tax and (b) central government grant in 2005-06. 
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department spent on sending officials to attend the local e-democracy conference on the internet and democracy in Budapest in July. 
Angela E. Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 6 November 2006, Official Report, column 868. The travel and subsistence costs of the officials who spoke at or attended the conference is estimated at under £3,500.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the budget is for the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme in each region for each of the next five years; and how many people have (a) completed purchase of a house through the scheme and (b) attended (i) a financial interview with a financial adviser and (ii) presentations as compulsory elements of the application process for the scheme in each month since its launch. 
Yvette Cooper: The Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme was launched on 2 October 2006. The following table sets out the current budget for the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme in each region between October 2006 and March 2008.
|Region||Expanded Open Market HomeBuy (funding allocation, October 2006 to March 2008)|
The scheme was launched at the beginning of October so only limited figures are available. 4,000 households have been accepted by HomeBuy agents on to the scheme already since it was launched just 10 weeks ago and are now looking for properties or beginning the process of buying a home. The first 42 households have been approved to exchange on their property and the first five households have completed their sales just 10 weeks after the programme was launched. We expect to help up to 10,000 households through the scheme by the end of March 2008.
We do not hold information centrally on the number of applicants who have attended a presentation and/or an interview with a financial adviser to undergo a financial assessment as part of the application process.
All applicants to the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme will receive information on the low cost home ownership options available to them, and undergo a financial assessmentalong with other eligibility checksbefore being accepted on to the scheme, but different HomeBuy agents will fulfil these functions in different ways depending on local circumstances, and the scale of delivery in their area.
Those HomeBuy agents handling large number of applications tend to ask applicants to first attend a presentation on low cost home ownership opportunities in their area, before they visit a financial adviser to undergo the financial check. Those
operating on a smaller scale tend to direct applicants to their website for further information, and conduct financial checks in-house.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of (a) the number of houses planned for construction on flood plains and (b) the level of flood protection required to protect houses built on flood plains. 
Yvette Cooper: The Department does not collect centrally the number of houses planned for construction on flood plains, which depends on a large number of local decisions. It is a matter that regions and local planning authorities should consider in preparing regional spatial strategies and local development documents, and in taking decisions on individual planning applications.
Government's aim is to avoid inappropriate development in areas of high flood risk. The new Planning Policy Statement No. 25 directs development away from these areas through a sequential, risk-based approach. More vulnerable development, such as housing, should not be permitted in those areas unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the development will be safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere and provides wider sustainability benefits that outweigh the flood risk.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether publicly funded goods, facilities and services are covered by the proposals on outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods and services. 
Meg Munn: The Government published a consultation paper in March setting out proposals for regulations that will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. The Government will publish a Response to consultation after the Christmas recess in good time for the laying of the regulations to come into force next April, alongside Part 2 of the Equality Act outlawing discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods and services.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities paid a dowry to registered social landlords taking over their housing stock in each year since 1996; and what the amount was in each case. 
Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect on local council budget plans for 2007-08 of the provisional financial settlement announced on 28 November. 
Mr. Woolas: The provisional financial settlement announced on 28 November confirms the increased investment in local services in 2007-08. Total Government grant will be £65.764 billion, an increase of £3.1 billion or 4.9 per cent. on 2006-07 on a like-for-like basis. This includes an extra £508 million above existing spending plans following joint work with the Local Government Association to identify pressures and the ways that they can be mitigated. Our proposals enable local authorities to deliver effective services without the need to impose excessive council tax. These provisional figures have been available to local authorities for the last year, facilitating the practice of advance planning and budgeting based on predictability. The deadline for comments on our proposals is 5 January.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what proportion of local authorities have been in (a) negative and (b) positive housing subsidy situations in each of the last 10 years; 
Yvette Cooper: Figures showing the positive and negative subsidy situations for local housing authorities in England for the ten years 1994-95 to 2004-05 (the last year for which audited figures are available) have been included in a table which has been placed in the House Library.
The housing revenue account subsidy system assesses each authority's notional income and notional need to spend in each year; where assumed income is greater than the assumed need to spend, the subsidy entitlement is shown as 'negative subsidy' and is captured by the system to cover assumed deficits in other authorities' housing revenue accounts. In recent years total surplus amounts redistributed have been smaller than total deficits and the Exchequer has contributed the difference.
Sir Peter Soulsby: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have challenged the population estimates used in calculating the 2007-08 local government funding settlement. 
Mr. Woolas: The following local authorities have made specific representations regarding the mid-year population estimates: Barking and Dagenham, Brent, East Lindsey, Enfield, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Leeds, Lewisham, Newham, North Tyneside, Slough, Southwark.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what progress has been made in discussions between the Local Government Association and the Local Government Employers group in introducing new pension scheme arrangements in England and Wales for local government; and how existing members of local government pension schemes are protected under transitional arrangements; 
(2) what protection is available for existing members of the local government pension schemes in England and Wales; and what the cut-off date is for full protection for schemes in England and Wales. 
Mr. Woolas: Since making my written Statement to the House on 23 November 2006 I am aware that several stakeholders, including the Local Government Association and the Local Government Employers, have made good progress in discussions about the reform proposals for a new-look Local Government Pension Scheme. Draft regulations to give effect to my Statement were issued for analysis and comment on 22 December 2006. The closing date for responses is 27 February 2007.
Other things being equal, the transitional protections effective from 1 October 2006 mean that all members of the Scheme at 30 September 2006 will continue to accrue rights up to 31 March 2008, as if the discriminatory provision had not been removed. Beyond 1 April 2008, members who are 60 and would have satisfied the rule of 85 by 31 March 2016, will be fully protected. Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2020, actuarial reductions on rights accruing from 1 April 2007 will be phased in to overcome the cliff edge effect for members born either side of a cut off date. It is also proposed in the current consultation that all members of the Scheme will enjoy an improved accrual rate for membership from 1 April 2008.
Yvette Cooper: Local planning authorities have the power to decline to determine a repeat application where it is the same or similar to an application that has been turned down previously and where they believe it is being submitted to wear down opposition to a development proposal. The power can be exercised where a previous application has been called in and refused by the Secretary of State or has been dismissed on appeal and, since 24 August 2005, where there has been no call in or appeal subject to there having been at least two similar applications refused in the past two years.
Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what funding was provided directly by her Department and its predecessor to local authorities in England to support regeneration projects in each year from 2001-02 to 2005-06; and what funding has been allocated for 2006-07 and 2007-08. 
Mr. Woolas: The Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessor, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has provided funding to local authorities totalling £3.075 billion for regeneration projects during the period 2001-02 to 2005-06, and has allocated £1.837 billion for the period 2006-07 to 2007-08. A more detailed breakdown of this funding is shown in the following annex (a).
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