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Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect of the Statistical Note on Land Use Change of January 1985 on (a) planning policy and (b) planning decisions in relation to brownfield land. 
Mr. Dhanda: Currently we have placed orders with Cable and Wireless for 111 connections for the Government Connect Secure Infrastructure (GCSx). This will provide GCSx services to 155 local authorities. This represents a local authority take-up of 35 per cent. across England and Wales. In due course we plan to connect to all local authorities.
The initial piloting work between Government and local authorities is on housing benefits (lead by DWP). We expect the work to provide valuable lessons for further cross-government development of Government Connect.
Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 31 January 2008]: A copy of the outline business case (published in November 2004) and the latest version 1.0. (published in June 2007) has been deposited in the Library of the House.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the full combined costs, including VAT, are of the interim solutions for the (a) FireControl and (b) FireLink projects. 
Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 31 January 2008]: There are prudent budgets in place within Firelink for achieving the Firelink interim solution and these amounts are commercially confidential at the present time. Expenditure for these purposes is not liable to VAT. There are no interim solutions for FiReControl.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proposals there are for testing radio coverage from resilient base stations under the FireLink Project; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the outcome of discussions to date between her Department and the (a) police and (b) ambulance services on proposals for testing of radio coverage from resilient base stations under the FireLink Project has been; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Dhanda: At a project level counterparts in the police and ambulance services have been made aware of our proposals for testing resilient base stations under the FireLink contract and are continuing on future options for joint testing.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what percentage of funding allocated to Gloucestershire for (a) flood recovery and (b) the introduction of flood prevention measures has been drawn down.  [Official Report, 18 February 2008, Vol. 472, c. 1MC.]
John Healey: To date £14,844,900 has been awarded to councils within Gloucestershire to support their recovery from the floods last summer. This includes £2,632,000 in Flood Recovery Grant, paid by the Department for Communities and Local Government to the county's six district councils to support flood affected communities. It is for authorities in receipt of grant to decide how to use and distribute any funding locally.
Flood-affected local authorities have also been able to apply to Communities and Local Government for help through the Bellwin scheme which provides financial assistance to local authorities dealing with emergencies. Exceptionally, the terms of the present schemes have been made more generous because of the circumstances of the recent floods. Gloucestershire county council received an interim payment of £1.1 million to help with its costs in clearing up after last summers floods and Gloucester city council received an interim payment of £114,000. Both may receive further payments once they submit final claims. Claims have also recently been received from Gloucestershire police, Worcester city council, Cheltenham borough council and Cotswold district council.
The Department of Transport has agreed to provide Gloucestershire with £10,000,000 for the repairs required to local roads. Assessments are continuing and further funding is expected to be confirmed when that work is complete.
The Environment Agency's estimated annual spend in Gloucestershire on controlling development, flood warning and awareness, flood risk mapping, maintenance of flood defences and watercourses is £1.5 million. They have spent an estimated extra £400,000 in Gloucestershire since the summer floods of 2007 on flood recovery, data collection, watercourse maintenance and repairs to flood defence assets.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment has been made of the levels of insurance against flooding amongst public authorities who own public sector housing. 
Local authorities have a duty under the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003 to ensure that they have a sound system of internal control which facilitates the effective exercise of their functions and which includes arrangements for the management of risk (regulation 4).
Guidance issued by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy on local authority reserves and balances lists "the adequacy of the authority's insurance arrangements to cover major unforeseen risks" as one of the factors authorities should consider in deciding the level of their general reserves (LAAP Bulletin 55).
Communities and Local Government (CLG) wrote to all local authority chief executives on 15 November 2007 to recommend that they review their decisions in respect of insurance cover for flooding to ensure they are satisfied with the arrangements and level of cover in place in their authority. CLG suggested they do so whether or not they experienced flooding this year.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the administrative cost of the European Unit in each Government Office for the Regions was in the last 12 month period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Dhanda: The administrative costs of the European Units in each Government Office in 2006-07 are set out in the following table. The cost figures reflect the different sizes of the programmes managed by each office.
|Government Office for the Region||Administration costs (£)|
Mr. Dhanda: The latest figures available for the number of full-time equivalent staff working in the European Units of each Government office are as set out in the following table. The figures are for the FTE numbers in December 2007, with the exception of GO north-east when the information is from November 2007. The range of staff numbers reflects the different sizes of the programmes managed.
|G overnment office||FTEs|
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what role the (a) Audit Commission, (b) District Auditor and (c) Local Government Ombudsman play in (i) auditing and (ii) considering complaints relating to (A) the Greater London Authority and (B) the London Development Agency. 
The Audit Commission is an independent body with statutory responsibilities to regulate the audit of local government bodies and NHS bodies in England. The Commission's statutory responsibilities in relation to audit are set out in the Audit Commission Act 1998. They are to:
appoint auditors to local government and NHS bodies;
prescribe how auditors should carry out their functions through a statutory Code of Audit Practice, which is approved by Parliament at five-yearly intervals;
set scales of fees for audit work; and
make arrangements for certifying grant claims and returns.
The Commission appoints professionally qualified auditors, known as district auditors, from its own staff and also private firms of auditors. Once appointed, auditors carry out their statutory and other responsibilities, and are required by the Code of Audit Practice to exercise their professional judgment, independently of the Commission.
interfere with an appointed auditor's exercise of his or her professional skill and judgment in performing his or her statutory functions;
substitute its own judgments for those of an appointed auditor in the exercise of those functions; or
direct an appointed auditor to act or to review his or her decisions, as only the courts have the powers to do so.
Quite apart from its audit functions, the Commission also has powers to carry out inspections of best value authorities (which include the LDA and some functions of the GLA) under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999.
to comply with the Code of Audit Practice;
to give an opinion on the financial statements of the audited body;
to satisfy themselves that the accounts comply with statutory requirements and have been compiled in accordance with proper practices;
to satisfy themselves that the audited body has made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources; and
to certify completion of the audit.
to consider issuing a public interest report about any matter that comes to their attention during the audit, which they judge should be considered by the audited body or brought to public attention;
for local government bodies (which includes the GLA and LDA):
(a) to decide whether the audited body should consider formally, and respond to in public, matters raised in an audit report;
(b) to give electors the opportunity to raise questions about the accounts, and consider and decide on objections received from electors about the accounts; and
(c) where unlawful expenditure has been or is about to be incurred by an audited body, to issue an advisory notice, to apply to the courts for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful or apply for judicial review.
The Code of Audit Practice requires that where, in the course of an audit, representations are made to the auditor or information is provided that is relevant to the audit, or matters relevant to the audit otherwise come to their attention, auditors should consider whether the matter needs investigation and action.
The Local Government Ombudsman is an independent body charged by Part III of the Local Government Act 1974, as amended, with investigating complaints against local authorities, including the
Greater London Authority and the London Development Agency, alleging maladministration causing injustice.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the Local Government Ombudsman can deal with complaints of maladministration by (a) the London Development Agency and (b) the Greater London Authority. 
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