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12 Dec 2007 : Column 682Wcontinued
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what (a) targets and (b) best value performance indicators (i) have been and (ii) are set and recorded for local authorities in relation to the number of children in care. 
John Healey: The Department for Communities and Local Government does not, and has not in the past, set targets or best value performance indicators in relation to the number of children in care.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department and its agencies have spent on Christmas (a) cards, (b) parties and (c) decorations in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Dhanda: With regard to Christmas cards, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick) to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) on 1 February 2006, Official Report, column 495W, to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope) to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) on 21 December 2004, Official Report, column 1558W and to the reply given by the former Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) on 19 December 2002, Official Report, column 948W. The figure for 2006 was £1,802.80 plus VAT.
The other information requested could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to her answer of 25 October to Written Questions 160879 and 160880, on Elections: Bedfordshire, when she will take final decisions on the structural arrangements in Bedfordshire; and whether, as a consequence, there are to be district, town and parish elections in 2008. 
John Healey: On 19 November, we issued the Invitation to councils in Bedfordshire to make proposals for unitary solutions for the rest of Bedfordshire, following my right hon. Friend the Secretary of States decision of 25 July, and further confirmed on 5 December, that she is minded to implement Bedford borough councils proposal, subject to their being suitable arrangements for the rest of the county. We will take final decisions on the structural arrangements in Bedfordshire as soon as practicable following receipt and analysis of those responses.
Any decisions on elections will be made as part of the final decisions on the structural arrangements for Bedfordshire.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for contracts to be finalised for the (a) FireControl and (b) Firelink projects. 
Mr. Dhanda: The FiReControl contract was signed on 30 March 2007. The Firelink contract was signed on 29 March 2006 and extended to include Scotland and Wales in June 2006.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the minimum contractual periods are of the contracts for the (a) FireControl and (b) Firelink projects; and whether the contracts allow for early termination of the agreements. 
Mr. Dhanda: The minimum contract term for FiReControl is eight years (expires 30 March 2015). There are standard termination clauses, either in event of contractors' default of 12 months notice by the Department.
The contractual period for the Firelink contract is 10 years nine months. There is provision within the agreement for early termination of the contract by the Department.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for the implementation of the provisions of (a) the Greater London Authority Act 2007 and (b) the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. 
John Healey: The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 enables commitments in the local government White Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities to be delivered. Section 245 of the Act sets out which provisions were commenced at Royal Assent on 30 October 2007, and which will commence on 30 December 2007. All remaining provisions will be commenced by Order. One commencement order has been made so far. This brought Part 1 into force on 1 November 2007. The intention is to make several such orders to fit the planned timetable for implementing relevant policies. The latest version of the White Paper Implementation Plan was published on 1 November.
Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress her Department has made in discussions with housebuilders and manufacturers of building materials on the development of new materials for the construction of zero-carbon housing. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Through the 2016 taskforce, we are having constructive discussions with the Home Builders Federation and the Construction Products Association, the latter which represents the UK's manufacturers and suppliers of construction products components and fittings. The 2016 taskforce is looking to identify the barriers to implementation of the zero carbon 2016 target, and will put in place measures to address them.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what (a) targets and (b) performance indicators English Partnerships and its successor agency are developing for local authorities. 
Mr. Iain Wright: English Partnerships is governed by nationally agreed policy objectives, priorities and performance targets. Its programme is delivered through a portfolio of local area-based projects, each focused on the specific local needs but which take into account regional and local objectives/priorities.
English Partnerships has no authority or powers to impose performance indicators and targets on local authorities.
The Homes and Communities Agency will be a partner authority for local authorities with regard to local area agreements and local improvement targets.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many referendums have taken place on whether to establish an elected mayor since 1997. 
John Healey: Since 1997 there have been 35 referendums held by local authorities in England on whether a directly elected mayoral model should be adopted. In 1998 a referendum was held on whether there should be an elected mayor for London. In Wales, where local government matters are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, there has been one such referendum.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much and what proportion of total Government grant to local authorities in England was ring-fenced in (a) 1997-98 and (b) 2007-08. 
John Healey: Excluding funding for schools, the level of ring-fencing in 1997-98 was 4.4 per cent. On a comparable basis, the level of ring-fencing in 2007-08 is 10.5 per cent.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many of the local authorities which received central government funding for community/neighbourhood wardens are funding warden schemes since the ending of central funding. 
John Healey: Support for warden schemes has now been pooled within local area agreements, which focus on achieving a series of public service outcomes agreed between central and local government. Information is not collected at the centre about the number and type of schemes that are being supported through LAAs.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for the local government restructuring in Ipswich, including the passage of secondary legislation. 
John Healey: In the written ministerial statement I made to the House on 5 December 2007, Official Report, columns 65-69WS, I announced that we intend to ask the Boundary Committee to provide advice on Ipswich Borough councils unitary proposal under section 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.
We are aiming to issue our terms of reference, including a proposed timetable for its work, to the Boundary Committee to enable it to begin its review early in the new year.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of how many and what proportion of first time buyers took out mortgages of 100 per cent. or more of the purchase price of the property in each year for which figures are available from 1997 to 2005. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Data on first time buyers (FTBs) using a mortgage is available from the regulated mortgage survey which is supplied to communities and local government by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. As the survey is a sample, data on the exact number of FTBs is unavailable from this source. However we can derive proportions from the survey and applying these to the total number of FTBs in the UK, as published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, we can estimate the numbers.
The number and proportion of first-time buyers in the UK that took out mortgages on a home to the value of 100 per cent or more is shown in the following table.
|Number and proportion of FTBs that took out mortgages of 100 per cent or more of the value of the property, UK|
| Sources: Regulated Mortgage Survey and the Council of Mortgage Lenders|
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will bring forward proposals to give local authorities more powers to enforce noise pollution legislation in relation to off-road scrambling in areas which are adjacent to residential areas. 
Jonathan Shaw: I have been asked to reply.
Under part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities have a statutory duty to inspect their areas for existing, potential and recurring statutory nuisances from time to time. They are also required to take reasonable and practicable steps to investigate complaints of statutory nuisance and to issue an abatement notice where it is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, or may occur or recur. Local authorities may also seize noise-making equipment.
Noise from off-road vehicles on premises can constitute a statutory nuisance. Premises can include
land and beaches and, in the case of stationery vehicles, streets. Off-road vehicles can also be seized as noise-making equipment.
A statutory nuisance materially affects someones reasonable use of their home and/or is prejudicial to their health, as assessed by the local authority on a case-by-case basis.
Off-road vehicles driven illegally or in a careless or anti-social manner (that is causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress) may be seized by the police under section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 powers. A new guidance document was published in November 2005 and sent to all chief police officers.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent by her Department on first class train tickets in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Dhanda: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on 3 September 2007, Official Report, columns 1648-49W.
Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what financial allocation has been made to the Working Neighbourhoods Fund for the next three years, split by local authority; and if she will make a statement; 
(2) what allocation of Neighbourhood Renewal Fund was made in 2007-08, split by local authority; and if she will make a statement. 
John Healey [holding answer 11 December 2007]: As I announced to the House on 6 December, £1.5 billion has been allocated to authorities to provide additional resources to tackle high levels of worklessness and low levels of enterprise. 66 local authority districts have qualified to receive an allocation under the Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF) and a further 21 authorities that currently receive Neighbourhood Renewal funding will receive two years transitional payments as they have not qualified for WNF. A full breakdown of allocations over the next three years is tabled as follows.
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