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Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding her Department has provided for the Empty Homes Agency in each year since the Agency was established; and what funding has been allocated for the Agency for (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11. 
Funding allocated for the Empty Homes Agency in 2008-09 is £100,000. CLG have not yet made any decision regarding the allocation of funding to the Empty Homes Agency post 2008-09. This is in line with previous years arrangements.
|(1) Current year|
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many empty (a) residential and (b) commercial properties there are in (i) St. Albans, (ii) London and (iii) England; and what steps she is taking to encourage property owners to bring these properties back into use. 
|Region||Empty domestic dwellings as at 9 October 2007|
Council Taxbase and Council Taxbase Supplementary (CTB1 and CTB1S) returns from local authorities
Initiatives to bring empty homes back into use are, rightly, channelled through local authorities who are best placed to assess what measures are appropriate to their local circumstances. In the first instance, we encourage local authorities to work with owners to persuade them of the benefits of bringing their property back into use.
However, where it is clear that owners are not prepared to co-operate with efforts to get their property occupied through agreement, we have provided enforcement powers to deal with them. Key powers are compulsory purchase and enforced sale which were added to by the Housing Act 2004 by which introduced a new power for local authorities to make empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs) in respect of long-term empty homes. An EDMO allows a local authority to take over the management of an unoccupied dwelling in certain circumstances.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst of 30 June 2008, Official Report, column 625W, on empty properties: charities, whether an impact assessment was produced on the effect of the empty business rate changes on property owned by charities which is not wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes. 
Where the liable ratepayer of an empty property is a charity and it appears that when next in use the property will not be wholly or mainly used for a
charitable purpose, the impact of empty business rates will be the same as if the property was owned by a business. An impact assessment detailing the impact of the empty property reforms was published by Communities and Local Government in May 2007 accompanying the introduction of the Rating (Empty Properties) Bill and a further assessment was laid before this House on the 26 February accompanying the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008number: 386.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of the empty dwellings in England were flats in the most recent period for which figures are available. 
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what assessment (a) her Department and (b) the Valuation Office Agency has made of whether businesses are demolishing buildings to avoid paying empty property business rates; 
John Healey: The Government have asked local authorities and the valuation office agency to provide information about how reforms to the empty property rate are working. The information provided on evasion of empty property rates will be based on the informed judgment of individual officers and is being gathered as a broad indicator of the scale of possible avoidance activity and not a detailed survey. There is no suggestion the activity in question is unlawful and we will set out in an appropriate form our general findings in due course.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether properties which are (a) boarded up and (b) without a roof are liable for empty property business rates. 
John Healey: Whether a property, which is (a) boarded up and or (b) without a roof, is liable for empty property rates would depend on whether the property is considered rateable. Under the Rating (Valuation) Act 1999, one of the assumptions for valuation purposes is that a building is assumed to be in a reasonable state of repair, except for any repairs that the landlord would regard as uneconomic.
Where it would be economic to repair a building the assumption is that the repairs would be carried out. It is the responsibility of the Valuation Office Agency to determine, on the merits of each individual case, whether a property remains rateable and therefore liable to non-domestic rates, including empty property rates.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many payments English Partnerships has made to Brahm for public affairs, public relations or stakeholder engagement contracts; which contracts for future work have been agreed; and what the value of such contracts is. 
Mr. Iain Wright: English Partnerships has made nine payments, covering 12 invoices totalling £54,032.50 to Brahm in the past 18 months, with a sum of £7,339 committed but not yet invoiced. No contracts for future work have been agreed with the company.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many officials in her Department are wholly or mainly tasked with the negotiation, implementation or administration of EU legislation and consequent policies. 
John Healey: This Government are firmly committed to the importance of the EU in delivering on 21(st)-century challenges. The EU is of central importance to the work of HM Government across all Departments. It is relevant to a wide range of policy areas, and to the work of many Government officials. As such, the specific information requested is not held centrally, and to provide it would involve disproportionate costs.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to her Departments resource accounts for 2006-07 what the fines are that her Department (a) has received and (b) is expected to receive in respect of ERDF programme irregularities; and if she will make a statement. 
John Healey: The European Commission imposed financial corrections on two ERDF programmes in England in 2007-08 which amounted to €25 million. The Commission is considering the imposition of two further financial corrections in respect of ERDF programmes that operated in the late 1990s. Details are given in the Communities and Local Government resource accounts 2007-08 (HC791).
Mr. Khan: The installation of properly maintained smoke alarms in every household has been the centrepiece of our efforts to reduce fire deaths in the home as they provide the vital early warning of fire and help people escape. Through the Fire Kills campaign, we also promote in the Fire Safety in the Home leaflet, other fire safety equipment householders could consider, such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets.
Mr. Khan: The Government are committed to raising awareness of fire safety and does so through the long standing Fire Kills media campaign. This campaign supports the outreach work carried out at a local level by the Fire and Rescue Service, but also educates and informs people through the promotion of fire safety messages at a national level. A variety of leaflets and campaign material is available, which features the key messages on fire safety in the home, as well as advice on how to behave if a fire breaks out. This material is distributed through the many branches of the campaign and by the Fire and Rescue Service.
The Fire Kills media campaign is led by TV advertising, with our fire safety advert having been shown in January to March and September this year and then again in January next year. The advert delivers the important message of smoke alarm maintenance and reminds people what damage a fire can do. The TV advert is supported by innovative work which targets the vulnerable and harder to reach groups of society that were established through research. Our partnerships with organisations and charities, such as the British Darts Organisation, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and Age Concern, are built upon by our PR work to enable us to better reach these target groups.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many hoax 999 calls were answered by the fire service in London in the last period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her policy is on requiring local fire and rescue authorities to move their operations into a regional fire control centre if they do not voluntarily agree to do so; and if she will make a statement. 
As the recently published Business Case Part 1: The Regional Cases show, FiReControl will significantly enhance national resilience and will provide a much greater functionality for the fire and rescue service in England. Communities and Local Government is
committed to delivering this project. The Fire and Rescue Service National Framework 2008 to 2011 reinforced this commitment.
Communities and Local Government have worked in partnership with other interested parties to deliver the FiReControl Project, and wishes to continue working in this way. But because of its importance we would consider, as a last resort, the use of powers under sections 22 and 29 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to ensure a successful move to FiReControl Network.
Mr. Khan: The Department's Fire and Resilience Programme is providing the Fire and Rescue Service with the resilience needed to meet the challenges of an increased terrorist threat and the risks posed by major incidents such as last year's flooding. The programme comprises: the New Dimension programme to provide response equipment and training; Firelink to provide a single, resilient, digital, wide-area radio system able to communicate with the police and ambulance services; and FiReControl, which will create a network of nine integrated and fully networked regional control centres in England. The Department spent £128.5 million on the programme in 2007-08, of which £28 million was capital expenditure. This is in addition to support which the Department provides to the service through Revenue Support Grant.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average annual (a) revenue and (b) capital cost to the public purse of a fire service helicopter was in the last period for which figures are available; and she will make a statement. 
Mr. Khan: None of the Fire and Rescue Services in England owns a helicopter. A number of Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) in England participate in schemes utilising helicopters owned by other organisations, such as the private sector, the police, the ambulance service, HM Coastguard and the armed forces.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for the publication of the updated business case for the South West Regional Fire Control Centre. 
Mr. Khan: The business case for FiRe Control is being published in two parts. Part 1: The Regional Case was published on the 8 July and was placed in the House library. Part 2: The National Case will be published later in the year.
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