Previous Section Index Home Page

8 May 2007 : Column 120W—continued

Delegation of Powers

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what further powers she is planning to delegate to local government. [135799]

Ruth Kelly: The Local Government White Paper, “Strong and Prosperous Communities”, sets out radical proposals to devolve power to local authorities, improve local partnership working and empower local communities.

The Government will shortly be announcing proposals for devolution of further powers in the areas of planning and local bus services, and are considering the case for further devolution to local government to support economic development.


8 May 2007 : Column 121W

Community Projects: Bexhill and Battle

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has for funding for community-based projects in Bexhill and Battle during 2007. [135801]

Angela E. Smith: I have no plans for any direct central Government funding for community-based projects in Bexhill and Battle. My Department's policy is to channel funding for area-based initiatives through local area agreements. Local area agreements provide local partnerships with the flexibility to determine funding decisions, based on local assessment of needs and priorities.

Affordable Housing

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing spending on affordable housing in the next Comprehensive Spending Review. [135803]

Yvette Cooper: The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has had and will continue to have wide ranging and regular discussions with the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary about preparations for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Conveyancing: Public Records

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in what circumstances a local authority may restrict access to public records required for home-buying. [136362]

Yvette Cooper: There should be no circumstances where a local authority refuses access to records that are required to be made publicly available by statute. A local authority must act reasonably in fulfilling duties to allow access to records open for public inspection. This means that, subject to any reasonable management system put in place by the local authority, records should be open for inspection during the authority's normal working hours.

Council Tax: Second Homes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of whether individuals are correctly claiming second home discount on council tax. [136294]

Mr. Woolas: No assessment has been made. The administration of council tax is a matter for local billing authorities. Under section 14 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 billing authorities are under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to ascertain entitlement to a discount when calculating a property's council tax.

Departments: Official Hospitality

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was
8 May 2007 : Column 122W
spent on hospitality by her Department in the financial year 2006-07. [133249]

Angela E. Smith: The Department spent £322,777 on hospitality in the financial year 2006-07. Recorded hospitality expenditure in 2006-07 is higher than in previous years, due to coding parameter changes on the Department’s financial system, which mean that some catering expenditure is also included.

All expenditure on hospitality is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting.

Domestic Violence: Refuges

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many safe houses are provided in each region of England for women who have suffered domestic violence. [135675]

Yvette Cooper: A national survey of refuge places in 1998 showed that there were 409 domestic violence refuge properties in England with approximately 7,269 bed-spaces.

The regional breakdown was as follows:

Government office region Total refuge bed spaces

Eastern

775

East Midlands

690

London

1,606

North East

424

North West

929

South East

939

South West

578

West Midlands

739

Yorkshire and Humberside

589

Total

7,269


In 2003 the Government announced major investment in refuge provision in England in 2003-06. A total of £32.1 million capital was allocated (£15.7 million through the Housing Corporation and £16.4 million from the Homelessness Strategy and Support Directorate in Communities and Local Government). 511 units of accommodation were refurbished or newly built.

In December 2006 we published guidance to encourage local authorities to set up sanctuary schemes which provide security measures to allow those experiencing domestic violence to remain in their own accommodation where it is safe for them to do so, where it is their choice and where the perpetrator no longer lives within the accommodation. Where it is appropriate (it is not so in all cases), a sanctuary increases the accommodation options available to victims of domestic violence.

Equal Opportunities Commission: Equal Pay

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the (a) job titles and (b) salaries are of the male staff at the Equal Opportunities Commission; and what the average salary is for (i) women, (ii) men and (iii) all staff at the Equal Opportunities Commission. [134418]


8 May 2007 : Column 123W

Angela E. Smith: The information requested is as follows.

EOC: Male j ob t itles (30 staff in total)

£

Average Male salary

26,962

Average Female salary

25,128

Average for All Staff

25,463


Fire Services: Kirkby

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessments she has made of (a) the adequacy of the way in which the incident on 20 February 2007 at the Sonae Factory in Kirkby was contained and extinguished by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, (b) the adequacy of the response time of the foam appliance, (c) the appropriateness of the time taken for the foam to be applied to the fire and (d) the degree of competence shown by the fire officers at the scene in containing the fire. [134530]

Angela E. Smith: I am advised by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) that on 20 February a fire broke out at the Sonae factory at around 13.37 hours in the thermal oil room on the ground floor. The two nearest fire appliances were mobilised and were at the scene within six minutes. In the next five minutes, an initial risk assessment was made by the Officer in Charge and a further two fire appliances and a foam unit were requested.


8 May 2007 : Column 124W

Prior to the arrival of MFRS, the Works Firefighting Team had set up their own fire appliance and had deployed a line of hose and a number of portable fire extinguishers. After the Works Team and their equipment had been safely removed, the initial attack from MFRS commenced at 13.57 hours. This involved a ground monitor and a line of delivery hose, which combined to cool the surrounding structure and hot gases.

A further assessment then resulted in a request being made for four more fire appliances (total of eight) and an aerial appliance. The foam unit arrived at the scene around 14.20 hours and the initial foam attack commenced soon after this.

At its peak, the incident required two foam branches, two water branches and a high pressure hose reel jet. A total of 10 fire appliances were in attendance at this peak. The fire had been extinguished and crews were involved in damping down operations by 15.20 hours.

After the operations had been scaled down, two fire appliances remained in attendance until the early hours of 21 February.

The incident is currently the subject of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

On the basis of the above information I see no evidence that the response by MFRS was not adequate or competent. The risk assessment which determined that a foam unit was required was made within five minutes of the first appliance’s arrival at the incident, which itself was within six minutes of having been mobilised. MFRS has two foam tenders, stationed north and south of the river in accordance with the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP).

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will instruct the Merseyside Fire Authority to investigate and report to her on the actions taken by the Fire and Rescue Service in dealing with the fire at the Sonae factory on 20 February; and if she will make a statement. [133417]

Angela E. Smith: I am advised by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) that on 20 February a fire broke out at the Sonae factory at around 13:37 hours in the thermal oil room on the ground floor. The two nearest fire appliances were mobilised and were at the scene within six minutes. In the next five minutes, an initial risk assessment was made by the Officer in Charge and a further two fire appliances and a foam unit were requested.

Prior to the arrival of MFRS, the Works Firefighting Team had set up their own fire appliance and had deployed a line of hose and a number of portable fire extinguishers. After the Works Team and their equipment had been safely removed, the initial attack from MFRS commenced at 13:57 hours. This involved a ground monitor and a line of delivery hose, which combined to cool the surrounding structure and hot gases.

A further assessment then resulted in a request being made for four more fire appliances (total of eight) and an aerial appliance. The foam unit arrived at the scene around 14:20 hours and the initial foam attack commenced soon after this.


8 May 2007 : Column 125W

At its peak, the incident required two foam branches, two water branches and a high pressure hose reel jet. A total of 10 fire appliances were in attendance at this peak. The fire had been extinguished and crews were involved in damping down operations by 15:20 hours.

After the operations had been scaled down, two fire appliances remained in attendance until the early hours of 21 February.

The incident is currently the subject of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

Fire Stations: Closures

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many fire stations (a) closed and (b) opened in (i) rural and (ii) non-rural areas in each year since 1997; and if she will make a statement. [135506]

Angela E. Smith: The information requested is not held centrally.

Housing: Energy

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many accredited (a) domestic energy assessors and (b) home inspectors there are within each (i) local authority area and (ii) city in England. [132410]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 19 April 2007]: As at 4 April there were more than 3,500 domestic energy assessor (DEA) candidates in training. In addition, there were over 1,900 who were either at an advanced stage in their training as Home Inspectors (HIs) or who had completed training. As at 3 May, there are 1,902 DEAs and HIs who have passed the relevant exam or exams.

We conducted a survey—consisting of 1,935 respondents—that showed the following distribution across the country:

Region Percentage by region

Eastern

11

East Midlands

7

London

8

North East

3

North West

11

South East

19

South West

13

Wales

4

West Midlands

10

Yorkshire and Humberside

6

Other

8

Total

100


Next Section Index Home Page