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18 Dec 2007 : Column 1323W—continued

For nearly all outward secondments we fully recover the costs from the importing organisation so the only costs to the Department are the associated administrative costs. Each year we fund a small number of secondments to bodies such as the European Commission to provide development opportunities for staff. These costs and the cost of each secondment for each year could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Telephone Services

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which telephone contact centres are the responsibility of her Department; what mechanisms are in place to monitor their effectiveness; and how many people have been employed in each of those centres in each year since they were established. [166547]

Mr. Dhanda: Communities and Local Government (CLG) does not have a call centre. CLG shares a switchboard service with DfT. The service is provided by and managed by our telephony contractor, Siemens, who employ six agents to answer general inquiries. The contract has been in existence since October 2004 with the number of staff remaining the same. All calls are handled via a queuing system and are either responded to directly (if the information is available on their database) or transferred to a policy official. The service does not collect personal information and the only monitoring relates to statistical information on the performance of call handling activity. Both Departments meet monthly with suppliers to discuss switchboard performance.

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information her Department collects and monitors in relation to the telephone contact centres for which her Department is responsible. [166548]

Mr. Dhanda: Communities and Local Government does not collect personal data from inquirers to the switchboard. The Department only monitors the service in relation to its call handling performance against the contract requirements.

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much each telephone contact centre for which her Department is responsible has (a) cost and (b) generated in income in each financial year since their establishment. [166549]


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Mr. Dhanda: Communities and Local Government (CLG) does not have a call centre, and its switchboard does not generate any income from calls. CLG shares this service with DfT paying £120,840 per annum for its share of the provision of this service.

Domestic Wastes: Waste Disposal

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have cited moving to an alternate weekly collection of household rubbish as (a) cashable and (b) non-cashable efficiency savings in their submissions of (i) forward look and (ii) backward look annual efficiency statements to her Department in each year since their inception. [171598]

Mr. Dhanda: For information on citations in Annual Efficiency Statements up to the 2006-07 Forward Look, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on 14 June 2007, Official Report, columns 1173-74W.

References for subsequent statements are as follows:

2006-07 Backward Look

2007-08 Forward Look

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether savings from moving to an alternate weekly collection from a weekly collection of household rubbish can be counted as a (a) cashable and (b) non-cashable efficiency savings for the purposes of local authorities' returns to her Department. [171599]

Mr. Dhanda: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) on 29 March 2007, Official Report, column 1736W.

Fire Services: Consultants

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was paid in fees to consultants for Fire Service-related work undertaken for her Department in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and what estimated fees her Department expects to pay to
18 Dec 2007 : Column 1325W
consultants working on Fire Service-related work in each year covered by the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007. [175281]

Mr. Dhanda: The information for which figures are available is as follows:

£ million
Consultants Temp staff Total

2002-03

3.38

0.19

3.57

2003-04

5.29

0.35

5.64

2004-05

13.27

0.74

14.01

2005-06

15.35

0.99

16.34

2006-07

20.83

1.29

22.12

2007-08

8.28

15.48

23.76


The cost of temporary staff has been included to reflect a recent re-categorisation of costs. The increased expenditure from 2004-05 is due to the programme of modernising the fire and rescue service. This includes the Fire and Resilience Programme, which will improve the service's capability to respond to major emergencies, including natural disasters, industrial accidents and acts of terrorism.

Estimates of fees to be paid during the CSR07 period are not yet available.

Fire Services: Cost Effectiveness

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what Gershon savings the Government expect to obtain from (a) stand-alone fire authorities and (b) fire authorities which are part of a local authority. [175014]

John Healey [holding answer 17 December 2007]: At the start of SR04, all Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) in England were set a national target to achieve £105 million gross cashable efficiency gains in the years 2005-06 to 2007-08. The evidence received by the Department to date indicates that FRAs are set to exceed this target and have achieved approximately £132 million in cashable efficiency gains in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Based on forecast figures provided by FRAs, a further £44 million will be achieved in 2007-08.

Cashable efficiency gains by authority type to the end of 2006-07 are as follows:

Amount (£)

Metropolitan Fire and Rescue Authorities

50,850,000

Combined Authorities

45,993,000

London

20,813,000

County Authorities

15,287,000

Total

132.9 million


Homelessness: Greater London

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to investigate the reasons for the 70 per cent. reduction in the number of statutory homelessness acceptances in the London borough of Newham. [172990]


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Mr. Iain Wright: Homelessness prevention is key to our work on tackling homelessness and continues to be a very effective approach. Nearly all local authorities have a comprehensive prevention toolkit in place, which is leading to successful early interventions to help households avoid the crisis of homelessness altogether.

London borough of Newham have been particularly pro-active on the prevention agenda over the last 12 months which has led to significant reductions in homelessness acceptances. The successful number of homelessness preventions in the borough rose by 278 per cent. to 1,696 in 2006-07.

On 5 December, we announced homelessness grant funding of at least £150 million over the three years 2008-09 to 2010-11 to continue to support local authorities to tackle and prevent homelessness in their area. This a 6 per cent. increase on the current year. London borough of Newham’s homelessness grant will increase from £200,000 to £300,000 for 2008-09, a rise of 50 per cent.

A Homelessness Action Team has been set up in partnership with the Department and the Housing Corporation. This team will continue to monitor and support the London borough of Newham and the other London boroughs in their efforts to tackle homelessness.

Housing: Finance

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what changes the Government have (a) made and (b) announced to the (i) total amount of funding for, (ii) maximum allocated to individuals under, (iii) bidding process used in and (iv) eligibility requirements for private sector renewal grants in the last 12 months. [174547]

Mr. Iain Wright: £10.2 billion has been allocated by my Department for regional housing funding for 2008-11 for housing capital programmes including those which address the condition of private sector housing stock. Of this, almost £2 billion is for improvements and regeneration to the existing stock (both local authority owned and private sector). These allocations were announced on 12 December.

No changes have been made to the bidding process for the Regional Housing Pot and we are currently seeking the Regional Assemblies’ recommendations on allocations to individual local authorities in their area drawn from the private sector renewal part of the Regional Housing Pot.

Housing: Industrial Health and Safety

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information her Department will require from local authorities on the implementation of the housing health and safety ratings system. [174204]

Mr. Iain Wright: Through the Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix return we are collecting data from local authorities on the number of private sector dwellings with category one hazards, the estimated cost of removing the category 1 hazards and the number of private sector dwellings made free of category one hazards or demolished as a direct result of action by the local authority during 2006-07.


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Through the Business Plan Statistical Appendix returns we are collecting data on the number of local authority homes that do not meet the statutory minimum standard for housing and the costs to put the defects right.

Subject to data quality the Department plans to publish these data in January.

Housing: Low Incomes

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance she proposes to give Bridging Newcastle Gateshead (BNG) on the proportion of new homes to be created by BNG in the Newcastle Housing Pilot Area which will be affordable to rent or buy. [172490]

Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 13 December 2007]: I do not propose to issue any guidance on this matter. It is for individual Housing Pathfinders such as BNG to determine appropriate levels of affordable homes, working in conjunction with other authorities and with the involvement of the local community. In the case of Newcastle, decisions about the mix and level of affordability will be informed by the city's housing strategy, the Walker Riverside Area Action Plan, adopted in April 2007, the draft Core Strategy Development Plan Document, and the draft Benwell/Scotswood Area Action Plan.

Housing: Owner Occupation

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the causes for recent changes in the level of home ownership. [171602]

Mr. Iain Wright: Sustained economic growth and stability since 1997 have created the conditions for a growth in home ownership, with a million more home owners over the last 10 years. The Housing Green Paper, “Homes for the Future: more affordable, more sustainable” (CM 7191), published in July, set out the Government’s assessment of progress on housing, together with plans to address the housing challenges the country faces.

We have recently published the Housing and Regeneration Bill, which will help deliver the commitments set out in the Housing Green Paper to deliver more and greener homes, in mixed and sustainable communities. The Bill also establishes the new Homes and Communities Agency which will focus on delivering more new and affordable homes across all tenures and will drive and invest in regeneration.

Housing: Standards

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many children under the age of 16 years were housed in accommodation classified as overcrowded or unsuitable in each region in England for each of the last five years. [170357]

Mr. Iain Wright: It is estimated that, over the period 2001-02 to 2005-06, there were an average of 900,000 children under the age of 16 living in overcrowded conditions in England, with the following regional split.


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Number of children under 16 living in overcrowded conditions, average 2001-02 to 2005-06
Government office region Number

North East

30,000

North West

110,000

Yorkshire and Humber

70,000

East Midlands

50,000

West Midlands

110,000

Eastern

70,000

London

280,000

South East

110,000

South West

70,000

England

900,000

Source:
Survey of English Housing.

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