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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the Valuation Office Agencys targets are for (a) elapsed time on council tax reports, (b) banding accuracy and (c) rateable value loss. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) of 10 September 2008, Official Report, columns 1987-8W, on council tax, whether local authorities may grant a single person council tax discount on the condition that the householder permits an internal inspection of their property by a local authority representative. 
John Healey: It is for local authorities to administer council tax, within the legislative framework set out in the Local Government Finance Act 1992, including the granting of discounts or exemptions.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the Answer of 1 September 2008, Official Report, column 1419W, on council tax, what guidance (a) the Valuation Office Agency, (b) the Valuation Tribunal Service and (c) the predecessors of her Department have provided on the application of the Limitations Act 1980 to repayments by local billing authorities for council tax bills in cases where there has been an error in the banding of a domestic dwelling. 
No guidance has been issued by the Valuation Office Agency, the Valuation Tribunal Service
or the predecessors to Communities and Local Government on the application of the Limitation Act 1980 to repayments by local authorities for council tax bills in cases where there has been an error in the banding of a domestic dwelling.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2008, Official Report, column 112W, on council tax: standards, which data collections outside the National Indicator Set will be (a) continued and (b) discontinued. 
John Healey: The process of reviewing data collections to identify reductions, which was referred to in the answer I gave the hon. Member on 28 January 2008, Official Report, column 112W, is still underway.
Departments have until May 2010 to identify and implement reductions which contribute to the cross-Whitehall 30 per cent. reduction target. Departments will publish annually every December in their Simplification Plans those data items which they have so far identified for discontinuation.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to implement recommendation 7.5 of the Lyons Inquiry report in relation to student households and council tax. 
John Healey: Following consultation during summer 2007, the Government decided to use the average of counts of student exemptions taken in May and September to calculate projections of council tax base. This came into effect with the first full three-year settlement from 2008-09. I announced the provisional allocations to the House on 6 December 2007. Copies of the consultation paper which at paragraph 20 confirmed our intention to move to using average counts for student exemptions were placed in the Library and the text is available on my Departments website at:
John Healey: Details of local authorities budgeted council tax requirement for 2008-09 are in a Statistical Release that was published on 21 August 2008 and is available on the Communities and Local Government website at
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of private (a) sales and (b) rental transactions in England are accessible to the Valuation Office Agency through its interface with Rightmove.co.uk plc to assist with council tax revaluations. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department has issued on the restriction on councillors from serving as staff on local authorities other than those on which they serve; and whether she plans to amend such guidance. 
John Healey: We have issued no such guidance. In our White paper Communities in control: real people, real power, we gave a commitment to amend the legislative framework so that only the most senior and politically sensitive posts would be politically restricted.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the (a) purpose and (b) nature of (i) the £136,000 ex gratia payment and (ii) the £286,000 adverse costs payment recorded on page 62 of her Department's most recent resource accounts were. 
Mr. Khan: The two amounts are balance sheet provisions recording an existing liability where there is uncertainty over the amount and/or timing of the payment; they do not record actual payments made. (i) The provision of £136,000 for ex-gratia payments is to cover eight claims against the Planning Inspectorate where liability has acknowledged but value is being negotiated, (ii) the provision of £286,000 for adverse costs is to cover legal costs incurred by the Planning Inspectorate where the final amount is yet to be determined.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what contracts her Department has with external consultants; what the value of these contracts is in the current financial year, including VAT and disbursements; how long each contract lasts; and what the forecast total value of each contract is. 
Contracts with a total value of £7.8 million were let for consultancy work by the central department in the financial year to end-September. Contracts for less than £20,000 in total value are subject to local delegation and may not be listed. In the same period the Department spent £21.3 million on consultancy services excluding VAT. These contracts may have been let in previous periods. The expenditure totals include any approved charges for expenses and disbursements.
|Table of consultancy contracts let by DCLGYear to end September 2008|
|Vendor Name||Contract Value||Start Date||End Date||Duration Months|
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