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22. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on the regional spatial strategy's proposals for housing in Gloucestershire. 
Meg Munn: The draft Regional Spatial Strategy proposes that the Gloucestershire districts should provide for an average of 2,430 homes to be built each year. An Examination in Public of the RSS proposals will be held by an independent panel, beginning on 17 April. It would not be proper for me to comment on the draft RSS, as this risks prejudicing the Examination in Public, the independence of the panel and the Secretary of State's statutory role in deciding the content of the final RSS.
Mr. Woolas: The Government carry out extensive analysis of pressures on local government when setting the overall level of funding for local authorities. They are also committed to assessing and funding any net new burdens which they place on local government. By 2007-08, the increase in Government grant for local services since 1997 will be 39 per cent. in real terms. There is therefore no excuse for excessive council tax increases.
Yvette Cooper: The Milton Keynes Prospectus, commonly known as the tariff, is a planning obligation, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It covers anticipated development up to 2016 within the defined Urban Expansion Areas of Milton Keynes, where the Milton Keynes Partnership Committee operates.
Angela E. Smith: We have received 26 bids for unitary status in response to the invitation that we issued on 26 October 2006. All except sixBedford, Exeter, Ipswich, Lancaster, Norwich and Prestoninvolve merging councils.
26. Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what percentage of local government expenditure was (a) met by Government grant and (b) raised locally during the last financial year for which figures are available. 
Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will give urgent consideration to Stoke on Trent councils bid for capitalisation permission; and if she will make a statement. 
Stoke on Trent councils bids for capitalisation permission in respect of both equal pay and redundancy costs were considered in accordance with our published criteria. The Secretary of State
granted the council permission to capitalise expenditure up to £12 million on 31 January.
Yvette Cooper: We have already invested very substantial sums in improving social housing since 1997. The Government are looking at ways to strengthen the role of local authorities in further provision of affordable housing.
28. Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the role of rented social housing in meeting Londons future housing needs. 
The Mayor of London is required to produce a Spatial Development Strategy (the London Plan) which establishes the annual rate of housing provision in London, taking account of the need for affordable housing, among other factors.
The Mayor of Londons Housing Requirements Study 2004 identified a requirement over 10 years for 20,800 social rented homes per annum. The Mayors London Plan sets a new target for an additional 30,500 homes per annum from 1 April 2007 to 2016-17, of which 50 per cent. should be affordable. Of the affordable element, 70 per cent. should be social rented housing and 30 per cent. intermediate housing.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how her Department determines to which (a) racial, (b) ethnic, (c) linguistic, (d) religious and (e) other groups the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is applicable; 
(2) by what criteria her Department determines which (a) racial, (b) ethnic, (c) linguistic, (d) religious and (e) other groups in the UK the European Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities applies to. 
John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will ask local authorities to take steps to identify child protection cases since 1981 to which they have been party where requests for medical records were made by any party to the case to Dr. David Southall and to report to her any such cases. 
Angela E. Smith: No Green Goddesses remain operational in the London area. Successive issues of The Fire and Rescue National Framework have made clear that fire and rescue authorities are expected to play an increasing role in contingency provision, including in the supply of all appliances and equipment. The Green Goddess fleet is thus no longer required, and is being disposed of through a mixture of donations to good causes and sales.
Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what provision the Department has made to provide fire and rescue cover in the event of a firefighter strike. 
Angela E. Smith: Responsibility for the provision of fire and rescue cover during a firefighter strike rests with local fire and rescue authorities. This Department has been working closely with the Local Government Association and the Chief Fire Officers Association to ensure that all fire and rescue authorities have appropriate arrangements in place in the event of industrial action in the fire and rescue service.
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on the implications for competitiveness of local authorities, service provision; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: My colleagues and I regularly discuss the importance of local public service provision for the competitiveness of the national economy, and local economies, with representatives of local government and other relevant stakeholders. The 2006 Local Government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, sets out our vision for the role of local authorities and their partners in stimulating the economic competitiveness of their areas.
Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many submissions she received before 31 January 2007 seeking unitary or enhanced two-tier status from councils within the county of Devon; and over what time scale she intends to consider them. 
John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will consider (a) the increased administrative costs associated with meeting business rates obligations and (b) the contribution alternative operators make to BT, as regulated by Ofcom, as part of her forthcoming consultation on non-domestic rates for unbundled local loops; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: Administrative costs to stakeholders are one of a number of issues the forthcoming consultation on non-domestic rates and unbundled local loops will consider. The contribution made by alternative operators to BT is a matter for Ofcom as the independent regulator of the telecommunications industry.
John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions her Department has had with (a) the Department of Trade and Industry, (b) HM Treasury and (c) Ofcom on the potential impact upon competition in the UK broadband market of making local loop unbundling operators subject to non-domestic rates liability for unbundled local loops; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: As part of the preparatory work for the consultation on the long-term rating solution of unbundled local loops the Department has had several discussions with representatives from DTI, HMT and Ofcom. The Department intends to issue a consultation paper in due course.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much money from the public purse (a) her Department and (b) its agencies have given to (i) the Smith Institute and (ii) its subsidiary, SI Events Limited, in each year since 1997; and for what purpose each payment was made. 
Angela E. Smith: The Department for Communities and Local Government and its agencies have made no payments to the Smith Institute or its subsidiary, SI Events Ltd, since May 2003. Figures prior to that date could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what account she plans to take of population size in considering proposals for new unitary authorities; and whether she has set an optimum population size for a unitary authority area. 
Mr. Woolas: Our assessment of unitary proposals will be against the criteria specified in the Invitation issued on 26 October 2006. To the extent that population size is a relevant consideration in such an assessment we will have regard to it.
Our research report Population size and Local Authority Performance which we published alongside the White Paper, makes it clear that while the picture is complex, there is evidence for potential economies of scale to be realised by larger local authorities in the delivery of key county and district services.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she plans to take to assess the level of public support for proposals for unitary status in local authority areas. 
Mr. Woolas: We are now assessing the proposals, having regard to the information available to us, against the criteria specified in the Invitation, including the criterion that any unitary change must be supported by a broad cross-section of stakeholders and partners.
Those proposals which we believe meet the criteria specified in the Invitation will proceed to stakeholder consultation, which we intend to be for a 12-week period from the end of March to the end of June 2007. Within this period, it will be open to anyone to make representations to the Secretary of State on the proposals.
David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will take into account the extent to which economies of scale can be generated in the management of disparate specialist services in making her assessment of NHS Blood and Transport's strategic outline case for the consolidation of blood production facilities at three sites. 
The National Blood Service (NBS) has proposed that processing and testing facilities will be consolidated at three sites. The outline strategy does not propose that all services will relocate to just these three sites. Services that need to be close to either
patients or blood donors will remain so. The specialist services provided to hospitals by the NBS will be rationalised to ensure services continue to be delivered to those hospitals that require them.
While demand for red cells is falling, demand for specialist services continues to grow. Specialist services are currently subsidised by income from the provision of blood and component products. NBS therefore is aiming to make efficiencies and have regard to economy of scale considerations that allow expanding services to develop further, while reducing subsidies.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We received a large response to the continuing care consultation, which raised a number of important issues which have needed careful consideration. We intend to publish our response in the near future.
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