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26 Nov 2008 : Column 1511W—continued

The Department for Communities and Local Government and its Agencies are not planning any involuntary or voluntary staff exit schemes in 2008-09 or 2009-10 although funding may be made available for individual cases as appropriate.

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many of her Department’s staff who left under (a) an involuntary and (b) a voluntary exit scheme in each year since 2005-06 received a severance package of (i) up to £25,000, (ii) £25,001 to £50,000, (iii) £50,001 to £75,000, (iv) £75,001 to £100,000 and (v) over £100,000; and if she will make a statement. [239165]

Mr. Khan: The following table shows the numbers of staff who left Communities and Local Government, or its predecessor, on voluntary exit schemes as well as those who left having received notice of compulsory redundancy in each year since 2005-06 broken down as requested:

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Number undertaking exit schemes by compensation lump sum amounts

2005-06 2006-07 2007-08





£0 to £25,000




£25,001 to £50,000




£50,001 to £75,000




£75,001 to £100,000




Over £100,000




(1) Of the 189 exits in this year 13 were involuntary exits.

Rented Housing: Hertfordshire

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many properties in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire are privately rented; [239945]

(2) how many people have been registered as private tenants in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire in each year since 1997. [239946]

Mr. Iain Wright: Information on the number of properties in Hemel Hempstead and in Hertfordshire that are privately rented is not available.

Private tenants do not have to “register”. However, estimates are available for the number of households in the private rented sector—but only from the 2001 Census. Annual figures, other than for 2001, are not available at below Government office region.

In the parliamentary constituency of Hemel Hempstead there were 2,154 households who were privately renting during the 2001 Census. In Hertfordshire the number of privately renting households was 36,317.

Rented Housing: Private Sector

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures are in place to tackle unscrupulous landlords in the private rented sector; and if she will make a statement. [239685]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Housing Act 2004 provides local authorities with a range of tools to improve management standards in the private rented sector. Local authorities are now under a statutory duty to licence all houses in multiple occupation (HMO) that are of three or more storeys housing five or more persons forming more than one household. They also have the discretion to introduce additional HMO licensing schemes to cover smaller HMOs where they have identified problems with management and property condition.

Local authorities also have the discretion to introduce selective licensing schemes to cover all privately rented property in areas which suffer or are likely to suffer from low housing demand and also to those that suffer from significant and persistent antisocial behaviour.

Breach of a licence condition is an offence subject to a fine of up to £5,000. Letting or managing a property without a licence is a criminal offence, subject to a maximum fine of £20,000.

The Act also provides local authorities with powers to take over the management of HMOs and other privately rented property in specified circumstances.

The independent review of the private rented sector, published on 23 October by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes from University of York, also put forward some recommendations on how to raise standards and professionalism in the sector. We will be considering these in consultation with stakeholders.

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Repossession Orders

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect on levels of home repossessions when the standard interest rate used to calculate claims for mortgage interest payments is reduced but lenders do not pass on interest rate cuts to borrowers. [238647]

Mr. Iain Wright: Communities and Local Government Ministers meet colleagues across government regularly to discuss housing policy.

The pre-Budget report on 24 November confirmed that income support for mortgage interest will be paid at the same level as September (6.08 per cent.) for the next six months, despite the recent fall in base rates.

Repossession Orders: Barnet

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will assess the effects of house repossessions in Chipping Barnet constituency. [237553]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government are determined to do everything possible to ensure families facing possible repossession have the chance to remain in their homes, and that repossession is always the last resort.

We continue to work closely with all English local authorities to ensure that advice and assistance is available to all households where homelessness is threatened, including through house repossession.

Over the next three years, CLG is providing funding of £200 million to local authorities and voluntary organisations to support local authorities’ statutory responsibilities to prevent homelessness.

Since July, all English LAs have reviewed and published their homelessness strategies, including greater emphasis on landlord and lender repossessions to reflect changing market conditions.

Additionally, as part of this week’s pre-Budget report, the Government announced further support for homeowners and households in difficulty. This includes changes to regulation of second charge mortgage market; consulting on the sale and rent back market; establishing a lending panel to bring together Government, regulators, lenders, trade bodies and consumer groups; and protecting vulnerable homeowners in financial difficulty by extending the Mortgage Rescue scheme to cover second charge lending.

Second Homes: Hampshire

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many and what percentage of homes are registered as second homes in the (a) Test Valley borough and (b) Hampshire County Council area. [239844]

Mr. Iain Wright: There were 237 properties registered as second homes for council tax purposes in the Test Valley borough area in October 2007, 0.5 per cent. of all dwellings. At the same date, 4,436 properties, or
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0.8 per cent. of all dwellings, were registered as second homes for council tax purposes in the Hampshire county council area.

The data are from a snapshot taken each year and are as recorded, in council tax base returns submitted annually, by each local authority.

Smoking: Foster Care

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department has provided to local authorities on whether adults who smoke may be eligible to become foster parents. [235930]

Beverley Hughes: I have been asked to reply.

It has not proved possible to respond in the time available before Prorogation.

Social Rented Housing

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps the Government has taken to ensure that the views of local authority tenants on (a) social housing issues and (b) improvements to their homes are considered appropriately. [230813]

Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 28 October 2008]: The Government are establishing a new social housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority. Professor Ian Cole was appointed as independent chair of an advisory panel appointed to look at how best to extend the role of the Tenant Services Authority, the new regulator for social housing, to regulate local authority providers. Professor Cole's recommendations were published in September. Both Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) and Tenants and Residents Organisations of England (TAROE) were members of the panel and two workshops were held with tenants of local authorities to help inform the panel's considerations. We will be consulting about extending its remit to local authority housing and how it engages with the views of local authority tenants.

The Government are also creating working with tenants a new ‘National Tenant Voice’ to ensure tenants can shape and influence policy and decision-making in local, regional and national Government.

The Government have also set a new agenda that puts tenants at the heart of decision-making about their homes and neighbourhoods. This combines many existing tenant engagement activities with new ones.

The Department is also reviewing Tenant Participation Compacts introduced in 2000. Compacts are produced by all local authorities and set out how tenants will be involved collectively in decision-making about the service they receive from their landlord. The Review was announced in the Community Empowerment White Paper “Communities in Control”.

In order to ensure that the views of tenants on improvements to their homes are considered appropriately we have set out consultation requirements in legislation and guidance. Tenants have been engaged in an options appraisal process to decide the best delivery route for decent homes and then further consultation is required at different stages in the delivery process. We have
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recently advised local authorities that want to change their delivery route for decent homes, or choose a different route to maintain decency that we expect the same options appraisal process to be undertaken.

Tenants are also able to take the initiative over the management of their homes. The Right to Manage Regulations, which were introduced in 1994, were updated at the beginning of October to simplify and speed up the process. These regulations were accompanied by guidance to encourage and support tenant management.

The Housing and Regeneration Bill 2008 introduced a requirement for local authorities to co-operate with tenants groups to undertake stock options studies and to work with them towards their preferred option. As part of ongoing housing policy development and delivery, officials and Ministers meet with tenants and tenant representative bodies.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many registered social landlords (a) are in breach of their borrowing covenant, (b) are within 5 per cent. of breaching their covenant, (c) expect to be charged higher rates of interest, (d) are renegotiating loans and (e) are seeking increases in their gap funding; and what steps her Department has taken to assist them in each case. [234312]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Tenant Services Authority (TSA), the new regulator of the social housing sector, will from 1 December 2008 operate the Housing Corporation's existing powers to require financial information from RSLs and will have a statutory objective to ensure that they are financially viable and properly managed.

The Housing Corporation currently collects and evaluates the business plans of all housing associations that are development partners (those that are eligible to bid for Social Housing Grant under the National Affordable Housing Programme 2008-11). The current evaluation of 2008 business plans includes reviews of current and projected compliance with loan covenants. This work will be complete early in 2009. The TSA will be able to report fully on loan covenant compliance for those associations shortly thereafter. There is no evidence that any associations are currently in breach of their loan covenants, nor that any are seeking increases in their existing gap funding agreements.

The Corporation has also been monitoring the impact of current market conditions, both in terms of loan covenant compliance and market sales, through its quarterly surveys with its development partners and other associations since the beginning of 2008. The results of these surveys are placed in the Library of the House. The results of the October 2008 survey were published on 25 November and are available on the Corporation's website at:

Key findings of the survey are that:

Social Services: Coastal Areas

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the use of out-of-county placements of vulnerable adults and children in principal seaside towns in England. [238421]

Phil Hope: I have been asked to reply.

Information about the number of adults placed out of county in the principal seaside towns in England, is not collected centrally. It is not, therefore, possible to make an assessment of the use of such placements.

Information is only collected at council level and by total number of clients funded by a council but receiving services outside the council boundary.

Children's services are the responsibility of the Department for Children, Schools and Families

Staffordshire County Council

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessments of Staffordshire County Council’s social services department have been made since 2000. [239403]

John Healey: The Department for Communities and Local Government does not hold records of the inspections and assessments taking place in individual councils. However, inspectorates have advised that the following inspections/assessments took place:

In addition to specific inspection activity, there are annual reviews of all the council’s adults’ and children’s social care services.

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