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Mr. Khan: My Departments role with the INTERACT II programme is a policy and co-ordination role through leading the UK representation on working groups, overseeing its preparation and agreeing the priorities and work programme. It is the same role it holds for all INTERREG programmes.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of the sum spent by local authorities in England on ornamental plants and seeds in the most recent year for which figures are available. 
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average budget of a local authority in England was in the latest period for which figures are available. 
John Healey: The total budgeted revenue expenditure by local authorities in England in 2008-09 is £103.136 billion and there were 478 local authorities in England during 2008-09. The average budgeted revenue expenditure (arithmetic mean) of a local authority for 2008-09 is therefore £215.8 million, although the average will vary considerably between authorities because the range of responsibilities varies significantly between classes of authority.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 26 June 2008, Official Report, columns 31-32WS, on local government, what the timetable is for the distribution of the remaining funding to local authorities. 
John Healey: My written ministerial statement of 4 February 2008, Official Report, column 47WS, said that, given the greater complexity, uncertainty, and delay caused by legal action, it would be necessary to retain a portion of the Year 3 funding as a contingency in the final year of the Local Authority Business Growth Incentives scheme. My written ministerial statement of 2 April 2008, Official Report, columns 56-57WS, indicated that a further announcement about the distribution of the remaining funding would be made in due course and that the funding would be allocated to local authorities in full, in line with the policy purposes for which LABGI was designed. I also said that the exact methodology would be confirmed once any uncertainty associated with legal challenges has been resolved. That uncertainty remains.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on unitary restructuring of local government in Gloucestershire from hon. Members representing the Labour Party. 
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect on local identities of moving Lowestoft from Suffolk into Norfolk as part of the latest round of unitary restructuring. 
John Healey: The Secretary of State has made no such assessment. We have requested the independent boundary committee to advise by 31 December 2008 on certain matters relating to proposals for unitary local government in Norwich, Ipswich and the surrounding county areas. There is no role for Government at this stage.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 25 June 2008, Official Report, column 349W, on local government: pensions, whether her Department holds the 2007 actuarial valuation reports for each local authority pension fund in (a) physical and (b) electronic form. 
John Healey: Copies of the reports relating to the 2007 Local Government Pension Scheme valuation exercise have been submitted to the Department, as required by the scheme's regulations, in electronic and physical form. Details of individual fund valuations may be requested directly from each scheme pension fund administering authority.
John Healey: At 31 March 2007, actuarial valuation of each of the 89 local authority pension funds which comprise the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales, total assets represented 83 per cent. of its total accrued liabilities. The valuation exercise also established that the contribution rates for participating employers for the triennial period ending 31 March 2011 were certified by the funds actuaries as being sufficient to ensure the ongoing solvency of schemes funds.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she plans to change the Widdecombe rules on the participation of senior officers in party political activity. 
John Healey: As stated in the local government White Paper, Communities in control: Real people, real power, we will amend the Widdicombe rules, so that only the most senior officials such as chief executives and chief planning officers continue to be barred from political activity along with other politically sensitive posts.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for local authorities to review and amend their executive structures according to the new executive models available to local authorities. 
John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to my answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) of 1 September 2008, Official Report, column 1427W. In advance of the move to a new executive model, local authorities must pass a resolution to make the change during the permitted resolution periods shown for each type of local authority in the following table.
|Type of local authority||Permitted resolution period|
John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on 13 March 2008, Official Report, column 586W, and to the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) on 21 July 2008, Official Report, column 779W.
Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effects of the changes made in response to the Local Government Efficiency Review led by Sir Peter Gershon on efficiency and practice in local government. [Official Report, 20 October 2008, Vol. 481, c. 2MC.] 
John Healey: During the 2004 Spending Review (SR04) period, councils were required to achieve 2.5 per cent. per annum efficiency gains, at least half of which had to be cashable (i.e. release cash resources that could be reallocated to meet local priorities or hold down council tax). This was in line with the efficiency target for the whole public sector and, for councils, amounted to an expectation for £3.0 billion gains by the end of 2007-08.
|Cumulative efficiency gains achieved by English councils between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2008|
|Activity||Total gains||O f which : cashable|
Cuts in services do not count towards the figures reported above and, throughout the SR04 period, the Audit Commission's Comprehensive Performance Assessment has shown an upward trajectory for the scores awarded. In 2005, 73 per cent. of councils obtained the top scores (three or four stars) in CPA, and 57 per cent. were identified as performing "above or well above minimum requirements" in the Use of Resources assessment. By 2007, those proportions had risen to 83 per cent. and 85 per cent. respectively.
To support councils in delivering these efficiencies, the Department set up a network of Regional Centres of Excellence (RCEs) which shared good practice and funded projects of importance to the region. The RCEs adopted a common system for measuring the benefits from the projects they funded and on average each pound invested released £5 of benefits to the public sector.
Councils are also working with each other, and other parts of the public sector, to a much greater extent. By 2007, 54 per cent. were involved in joint commissioning of services (excluding health and social care)up from 31 per cent. in 2004and 38 per cent. shared a procurement function with another council.
There are still opportunities for further efficiencies in local government, through the widespread adoption of better procurement, process improvement, collaboration and asset management, and a further £4.9 billion cash-releasing council efficiencies over the period from 2008-09 to 2010-11 is expected. The achievement of this target will rely on the strong foundation that councils have laid and will be supported by £384 million we are making available to support improvement, efficiency and innovation in local government.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what performance targets or indicators the Standard Board sets for local authority monitoring officers; and whether these are incorporated into the National Indicator set. 
John Healey: While the Standards Board has given guidance about how local authority's standard committees and monitoring officers should fulfil their roles in relation to members' conduct, it does not set performance targets or indicators for local authority monitoring officers.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what obligations local authorities are under to provide performance management information to the Standards Board. 
John Healey: The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 requires local authorities to provide to the Standards Board for England certain information relating to the exercise of functions undertaken by the standards committee or monitoring officer of a local authority.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department has issued to local authorities on identifying and reporting annual efficiency gains. 
John Healey: The Department has issued guidance for councils on measuring and reporting efficiency gains since 2005. Based on the advice of the Measurement Taskforce (a group formed of representatives from both local and central government), this guidance has been regularly updated to ensure it remains relevant and practical. The current version may be accessed at:
The Department has also produced toolkits for measuring efficiency gains in the specific areas of social housing, the Supporting People programme, corporate services, transactions, procurement and productive time. These are available online at:
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what systems are operated by the fire control network in London; what plans there are for the London Fire Service to procure (a) an automatic vehicle relocation system, (b) satellite navigation, (c) an integrated geographic information system and (d) premise-based gazetteer mobilising at premises level; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Khan: London Fire Brigade is currently operating the following systems; status messaging, enhanced Information Service for Emergency Calls (EISEC) and Automatic Location Service for Emergency Calls (ALSEC).
The FiReControl Project will be equipping London with a number of new capabilities as part of over £360 million of investment in England's Fire and Rescue Services. The provision of an automatic vehicle location system, satellite navigation, geographic information system and the full premise based gazetteer is part of the FiReControl project to create a resilient national network of control centres.
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