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Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent reports she has received on local development and regeneration plans of Swale Borough Council; and what her policy is on the future development of (a) the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway and (b) the Sittingbourne Dolphin Barge Museum. [227432]

Mr. Iain Wright: The overall strategy for the physical regeneration of Swale is set out in the Swale borough local plan, adopted in 2008. Following adoption of the local plan, the borough council has commissioned a master plan for Sittingbourne town centre, and this is currently under way.

Communities and Local Government is supporting the regeneration of Sittingbourne through an indicative allocation of Thames Gateway funding of £10.9 million, of which £7.5 million will contribute to the construction of Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road; £2 million will contribute to the development of Sittingbourne Learning Campus, and the balance will fund the completion of the master plan and the development of proposals for increasing capacity at junction 5 of the M2.

The Government do not have any policy on the future development of the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway or the Sittingbourne Dolphin Barge Museum because these are matters for the local authority.

Regional Planning and Development: Thames Gateway

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what financial commitments have been made by her Department towards the development of the Thames Gateway. [226259]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government’s plans were set out in “The Thames Gateway Delivery Plan” published in November 2007.

Repossession Orders

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with the Council of Mortgage Lenders on housing repossessions; and if she will make a statement. [227636]

Mr. Iain Wright: Government are working closely with a range of stakeholders—including the Council of Mortgage Lenders—to help vulnerable households facing repossession remain in their homes wherever possible.

Right to Buy Scheme

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homes have been purchased under the right to buy scheme in (a) rural and (b) non-rural areas in each year since 1997 expressed in (i) absolute terms, (ii) per 1000 population and (iii) per 1,000 households. [227307]

Mr. Iain Wright: Information on the number of local authority right to buy sales in England is shown in the following table. The table shows the number of sales, the number of sales per 1,000 population, and the number of sales per 1,000 households, in urban and rural areas.


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1997-98 1998-99 1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

Number of local authority right to buy sales

Predominantly urban

28,510

28,850

39,000

39,550

39,520

48,800

55,630

40,990

21,460

13,620

9,950

Significant rural

4,480

4,170

5,680

5,130

5,160

5,980

5,430

3,720

2,000

1,240

840

Predominantly rural

8,350

7,250

9,580

7,710

7,290

8,620

8,510

5,270

3,200

2,040

1,170

Total

41,330

40,270

54,250

52,380

51,970

63,390

69,580

49,980

26,650

16,900

11,960

Number of local authority right to buy sales per 1,000 population

Predominantly urban

0.92

0.93

1.26

1.27

1.25

1.55

1.76

1.29

0.67

0.42

0.31

Significant rural

0.70

0.65

0.89

0.80

0.80

0.92

0.83

0.57

0.30

0.19

0.12

Predominantly rural

0.74

0.64

0.84

0.67

0.63

0.74

0.73

0.45

0.27

0.17

0.10

Total

0.85

0.83

1.11

1.07

1.05

1.28

1.40

1.00

0.53

0.33

0.23

Number of local authority right to buy sales per 1,000 households

Predominantly urban

2.26

2.28

3.06

3.08

3.03

3.70

4.19

3.07

1.59

1.00

0.72

Significant rural

1.73

1.60

2.17

1.94

1.94

2.22

2.00

1.36

0.72

0.44

0.29

Predominantly rural

1.81

1.56

2.04

1.62

1.52

1.78

1.73

1.06

0.63

0.40

0.23

Total

2.09

2.02

2.71

2.59

2.53

3.06

3.33

2.37

1.25

0.79

0.55


Smoke Alarms

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which fire and rescue services provide smoke alarms free of charge to domestic dwellings. [227434]

Mr. Khan: In 2004, Communities and Local Government invested £25 million pump priming capital over four years in the Home Fire Risk Check initiative. This money enabled all fire and rescue services to embed a programme of home visits where they would provide tailored fire safety advice to households. As part of a home visit, all fire and rescue services would, if necessary, install smoke alarms to vulnerable households free of charge.

This funding resulted in fire and rescue services in England installing over 2.4 million smoke alarms. Many fire and rescue authorities may also have invested in and installed further smoke alarms outside of and even before this grant.

Social Services: Children

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what account she has taken of concerns raised by local authorities about the ability of the new Children’s Social Services formula, used in the 2008-11 local government funding settlement, to assess accurately the complex needs of children in urban areas. [227235]

John Healey: The children’s formula is based on extensive research by experienced independent researchers and used the 2003 Children in Need survey, which contains data on children’s social service clients in almost every social service authority in England. It is calculated using up to date indicators of need and is based on research from within 141 local authorities. The new formula therefore better reflects the current patterns of relative need and the cost drivers for children’s social services than the old formula it replaces.

London councils have argued that the formula is systematically biased against councils with the highest needs. However, the consideration of so-called ‘unmet
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need’ was part of the terms of reference of the research project, and was examined as thoroughly as possible by the researchers. They did not consider this issue impacted sufficiently seriously on the robustness of the formula to cast doubt on its overall reliability.

Society of Local Authority Chief Executives

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding the Audit Commission provided for the (a) Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and (b) Senior Managers Foundation Imprint magazine in 2007-08. [226125]

John Healey: The Audit Commission provides no funding to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers. During 2007-08, the Audit Commission provided £4,000.00 in sponsorship to the Solace Foundation Imprint magazine.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Council: Theatre

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British (a) plays and (b) concerts were performed overseas by British performers under the auspices of the British Council in each year since 1998. [226672]

Caroline Flint: The British Council does not hold detailed records on individual plays and concerts performed overseas and to obtain this information would incur disproportionate cost. The British Council currently has three key programme areas: intercultural dialogue, climate change, and supporting the UK’s creative and knowledge economy, which such performances support.


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