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18 Nov 2008 : Column 384W—continued


Central Government grant is defined here as the sum of Formula Grant (Revenue Support Grant and redistributed non-domestic rates) and specific grants inside Aggregate External Finance (AEF), ie revenue grants paid for council’s core services. It excludes grants outside AEF (ie where funding is not for authorities’ core services, but is passed to a third party), capital grants and those grant programmes (such as European funding) where authorities are simply one of the recipients of funding paid towards an area.

Population figures used in the calculation are the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Mid-Year Population estimates for 2007.


18 Nov 2008 : Column 385W

Fire Services: Safety

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what account she takes of firefighter safety in reviewing the efficacy of integrated risk management plans published by fire and rescue services; and if she will make a statement. [236127]

Mr. Khan: The responsibility for drawing up, reviewing and maintaining integrated risk management plans (IRMPs) lies with the elected members of Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs); it is not for Ministers or Government officials to review or intervene in the operational proposals in individual FRAs' IRMPs.

The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog, which assesses economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services. The Commission is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of FRAs including individual FRAs' IRMPs.

Communities and Local Government is taking the lead on work to produce operational guidance, that supports firefighter safety. The Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser has agreed, in collaboration with key stakeholders such as the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Fire Brigades Union, a priority programme of work for 2008-09, and is developing the longer-term and sustainable framework for the development of future guidance.

Fire Services: South West

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what contingency plans she has should the South West fire control room not become operational; [235978]

(2) whether the existing county fire brigade control rooms in the South West will have any function when the South West regional fire control room is fully operational. [235980]

Mr. Khan: The existing arrangements stay in place until the ‘cut-over’ of the South West regional control centre. There will be no call handling or call mobilising function for the existing county fire brigade control rooms in the South West once the regional control centre is operational.

Fire Services: Standards

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has for the introduction of national fire standards. [236555]

Mr. Khan: The Government have no plans to reintroduce national standards of fire cover.

The prescriptive national standards of fire cover were abolished in 2003 with the introduction of integrated risk management planning, enabling Fire and Rescue Authorities to tailor cover for fire and other incidents to local circumstances by evaluating where risk is greatest and allocating resource accordingly.

Decisions made by local politicians and practitioners according to local circumstances are more effective than blanket requirements across the country.


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Fires

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many domestic fires were caused by (a) cigarettes and (b) candles in the latest year for which figures are available. [235793]

Mr. Khan: In England, in 2006, there were 1,300 dwelling fires started by candles and 2,400 dwelling fires started by smokers’ materials. Cigarettes are recorded within this wider category.

Fires: Death

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps have been taken to reduce the numbers of accident-related fire deaths. [235797]

Mr. Khan: The Government are committed to reducing preventable fire deaths and injuries from fire. Fire deaths in the home in the UK are at their lowest since the 1950s, and the long-term trend is downwards. In 1997 in England, 362 people died in house fires, compared to the current figure of 233 fire deaths in the home in 2006.

The Fire Kills campaign is one of our key strands of work to drive down deaths and injuries from fire. The range of public awareness media campaigns run by the Government have sent powerful messages to the public about the importance of fire safety in the home, in particular the importance of having a working smoke alarm installed. Ownership of smoke alarms in England now stands at 80 per cent. of households and we are seeking to raise it further as evidence suggests that those without alarms are often in those groups who are most at risk from fire. The next media campaign will commence on 26 December 2008 and will run for one month promoting the key message of the importance to test and maintain smoke alarms.

The Government have also invested £25 million in grants during 2004-08 to Fire and Rescue Authorities to enable them to purchase smoke alarms to install in domestic dwellings. This pump-priming funding stream has resulted in just under 2 million Home Fire Risk Check visits to households in England, with over 2.4 million smoke alarms being installed in properties at higher risk from fire.

Green Belt

Grant Shapps: 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 October 2008, Official Report, column 1291W, whether the proposed Green Belt amendments involve the removal or weakening of Green Belt protection. [235863]

Mr. Iain Wright: A partial revision of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy has been submitted for an Examination in Public due to start in April 2009. Matters including the broad locations for new housing and whether amendments to the green belt are justified will be debated at the independent examination and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the merits of any proposals now.


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Any proposed alteration to the extent of a green belt would have to meet the stringent policy criteria set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 2, “Green Belts”.

Guildford Street Angels

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the contribution of church-led initiatives to increasing levels of safety in towns and cities, with particular reference to the Guildford Street Angels programme. [236640]

Mr. Khan: Communities and Local Government is aware of the national Street Pastors programme to which the Guildford Street Angels project is similar. No formal assessment has been made by Communities and Local Government of such initiatives, though we value and support the important contribution that faith groups make to local communities.

Historic Counties Association

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what meetings she has held with the Historic Counties Association in the last 12 months; and what matters were discussed. [235801]

Mr. Khan: My right hon. Friend has had no meetings with the Historic Counties Association.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made on the arrangements for Holocaust Memorial Day 2009; and if she will make a statement. [235691]

Mr. Khan: The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust receives an annual grant from Communities and Local Government which will help it this year to organise both the 2009 national commemoration (to be held in Coventry) and a range of educational and cultural events.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2009 is ‘Stand Up to Hatred’—examining what hatred means; how it can be enshrined in actions, language, propaganda and legislation; and how each of us can help make our communities stronger and safe. The choice of this particular theme will help to ensure that the 2009 commemoration and its supporting activities will make an important contribution to the Government’s work.

Home Information Pack

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether a home information pack is required to be produced for the sale of a houseboat. [236143]

Mr. Iain Wright: No.


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Home Information Packs

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it her policy to extend the transitional arrangements for home information packs beyond 31 December 2008. [235932]

Mr. Iain Wright: An announcement will be made on this shortly.

Housing Starts

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of houses to be built each year until 2020 to attain her Department's target for three million new houses by that date; what progress has been made on that target; what proportion of such houses will be (a) council housing, (b) registered social landlord housing, (c) affordable housing, (d) private housing and (e) buy to let housing; how much Government funding will be required each year to build (i) council housing, (ii) registered social landlord housing and (iii) affordable housing to meet that target; and what estimate she has made of the number of houses which will be built in each category in (A) 2008-09, (B) 2009-10 and (C) 2010-11 to meet that target. [234344]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government set the overall strategy for housing supply in England. In 2006-07 199,200 additional homes were delivered. Housing starts in 2007-08 were 10 per cent. lower than in 2006-07 and this is likely to be reflected in lower levels of housing completions during 2008-09.

The Housing Green Paper ‘Homes for the Future: more affordable, more sustainable’ (CM 7191), published in July 2007, announced an increase of new affordable housing to at least 70,000 per annum by 2010-11, to be delivered mainly through the Housing Corporation's National Affordable Housing Programme. Of these, 45,000 homes will be for social rent, an increase of 50 per cent. on 2007-08, with a goal to go further to 50,000 new homes for social rent in the next spending review period.

The Government do not publish forecasts for private house building or estimates of the levels of house building for registered social landlords or local authorities.

The Government are investing £8 billion in the provision of affordable housing over the three years 2008-11, initially through the Housing Corporation and then through the Homes and Communities Agency. Our aspiration is to reach 70,000 affordable homes a year by 2010-11. It remains too early, given current market conditions, to predict outputs in that year, or the intervening years, with certainty.

Funds available for affordable housing from 2011-12 will be subject to decisions made at the next spending review.

Housing: Construction

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for how many permanent domestic dwellings construction was started in England in each year since 1979. [236089]


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Mr. Iain Wright: The following table shows the number of annual house building starts on permanent dwellings in England from 1979 until 2007. All data given are for calendar years.

House Building Starts

Number

1979

186,230

1980

131,340

1981

133,990

1982

167,410

1983

193,330

1984

173,460

1985

173,460

1986

187,090

1987

200,800

1988

220,010

1989

166,380

1990

133,470

1991

133,800

1992

129,300

1993

151,230

1994

165,440

1995

136,230

1996

144,710

1997

157,570

1998

149,060

1999

147,510

2000

144,520

2001

147,610

2002

149,060

2003

159,440

2004

176,600

2005

177,130

2006

177,200

2007

166,350

Source:
New build completions from P2 monthly and quarterly returns submitted by local authorities and the National House-Building Council (NHBC).

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether dwellings built on windfall sites may be counted towards house-building targets required from a local authority under a regional spatial strategy. [236142]

Mr. Iain Wright: Dwellings built on windfall sites can be counted towards the achievement of house-building targets, but local authorities should not rely on such sites coming forward to meet housing need. They should therefore not include an allowance for windfalls in the first 10 years of land supply unless they can provide robust evidence of genuine local circumstances that prevent specific sites being identified.


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