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Margaret Beckett: The Government are already investing £8 billion in affordable housing (for both social rent and low cost home ownership) through the new Homes and Communities Agency in 2008-11a £3 billion increase compared to previous years.
The low cost home ownership programme is helping to make home ownership more affordable to first time buyers throughout England through a range of shared ownership and shared equity schemes. In response to the current difficult market conditions, we have expanded the availability of shared equity, which allows qualifying first time buyers to buy a property with the help of an equity loan (which can be used as a deposit). This includes the introduction of the new HomeBuy Direct scheme (which will give up to 18,000 first time buyers the opportunity to access affordable home ownership with an equity loan of up to 30 per cent. (funded on equal terms by Government and the participating developers).
We recently announced that local authorities would be invited to bid for social housing grant to build new affordable housing. We are now consulting on changes to the revenue and capital rules which would enable them to compete for this subsidy.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many meetings of the France (Channel)-England Programme Managing Authority representatives of (a) her Department and (b) the Government office for the south-east have attended in the last 12 months. 
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) home information packs and (b) home condition reports have been subsidised through central funding. 
Margaret Beckett: Our records show that as part of the Area Trials research, which ran from November 2006 to April 2007, 4,315 HIPs were subsidised by central Government of which 1,487 included a subsidised home condition report.
Social HomeBuy is a voluntary demand-led scheme. Registered social landlords who choose to offer the scheme to their tenants bid to the Homes and Communities Agency for grant to cover the
discount offered to the tenant. From April 2006 to end of January 2009, spend through the National Affordable Housing programme totalled £3.4 million.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the written ministerial statement of 16 July 2008, Official Report, columns 17-19WS, on the Housing Challenge document, if she will place in the Library a copy of the letter sent to regional assembly chairs on the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit's advice. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the evidential basis was for the statement made by the Minister of State (Housing) that there had been an upturn in the property market in her interview with The Sunday Times on 18 January 2009; who the Minister of State consulted before making this statement; and if she will make a statement. 
In my interview with The Sunday Times I did not state that there has been an upturn in the property market. I was asked about the state of the housing market. In my reply, I mentioned that a number of recent surveys and professional groups have reported that buyer inquiries are rising, including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). However, mortgage availability remains a key barrier.
To help people who are struggling to get onto the housing ladder we introduced the HomeBuy Direct scheme which is designed to help up to 18,000 first time buyers through shared equity. Measures announced by the Chancellor on 19 January are intended to support lending.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the minimum Code for Sustainable Homes standard will be for private sector homes built in eco-towns; and what the minimum standard is for new sector private housing built in other areas. 
Margaret Beckett: The standards homes built in eco-towns must reach, are set out in the draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS), published for consultation on 4 November 2008. Copies of the draft PPS are available in the House Library.
Building regulation sets the minimum standards for house building. The Code for Sustainable Homes is a voluntary standard for new private sector housing, unless there is a planning requirement as set out by the Planning Policy Statement on Climate Change (supplement to PPS 1).
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding her Department plans to provide for the (a) establishment and (b) running costs of local authority leaders boards. 
John Healey: Development of regional strategies will require close working between local authorities and the Regional Development Agency (RDA) and each region will need to establish structures which best suit their overall arrangements.
When local authority leaders boards are established they will receive funding on the basis of an agreed business plan to cover their work on the Regional Strategy and any other agreed functions. It will be for the RDA and the local authority leaders board to decide between them how their joint working arrangements are resourced.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what requirements there are on local authorities to provide (a) cashable and (b) non-cashable efficiency savings in (i) 2009-10 and (ii) 2010-11. 
John Healey: Government have committed to achieving at least 3 per cent. value for money savings per year across central and local government over the 2007 comprehensive spending review (CSR07) period of 2008-09 to 2010-11. As their contribution to this challenge, councils in England are expected to achieve at least £4.9 billion cash-releasing efficiencies. The local government value for money delivery plan (www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/deliveringvaluefor money) sets out a trajectory of £1.5 billion cumulative savings by the end of March 2009 and £3.2 billion by the end of March 2010. There are no expectations with respect to non- cashable efficiencies in CSR07.
There are no mandatory efficiency targets for individual councils, although targets have been agreed as part of seven local area agreements. The value of efficiencies achieved by all English councils and fire and rescue services will be published on and with council tax bills from this year so that citizens can see what progress is being made by their local authorities.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether account is taken of the level of local authority reserves in allocating central grants to local authorities. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate has been made of the level of exposure of local authorities'
(a) pension funds and (b) deposits with funds operated by Mr. Bernard Madoff. 
John Healey: No estimate of the level of exposure of local authorities' pension funds and deposits to the Madoff hedge fund has been made. With regard to pension funds, investment/funding strategy and individual stock selection is a matter for the 89 individual pension funds in England and Wales, who are accountable for their decisions.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which seaside towns were included in the first wave of multi-area agreements; and which seaside towns she expects to enter into agreements as part of future waves of the multi-area agreement scheme. 
John Healey: Ten MAAs have been signed. The local authorities with seaside towns included in these are Bournemouth and North Tyneside, which includes Whitley Bay, and Sefton council, which contains the seaside town of Southport.
John Healey: Fraud investigations undertaken by councils operate within the rules, procedures and codes required for the particular type of investigation being undertaken, typically criminal, civil or employment focused in nature. As such there is no specific maximum period for a council to conduct an anti-fraud investigation.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) chief executives of local authorities and (b) local authority employees in Lancashire earned more than £100,000 in 2007. 
John Healey: Central Government do not collect the information requested. However, the local government employers conducts an annual survey of chief executive and chief officer salaries and workforce numbers. The results of this survey are available on their website at:
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) whether she plans to make an assessment of the appropriateness of the legislative requirements on local authorities to place statutory notices in local newspapers; 
Mr. Iain Wright: At the launch of the final report on 24 November 2008, my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Housing identified two recommendations on extending further permitted development rights for businesses and public services and reducing information requirements that we would be taking forward immediately. Among the other recommendations of the review was one that local authorities should be given greater autonomy and flexibility to determine the best approaches to use in order to notify the public about planning applications. We will set out the Governments response to the remaining recommendations in the Killian Pretty Report shortly. Any proposals for substantive policy changes would be subject to consultation.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made towards the development of an indicator to monitor numbers of benefit claimants in defined small areas under the new Local Government Performance Framework; and which bodies will be responsible for (a) data collection and (b) distribution of information on performance against the indicator. 
John Healey: Indicator 153 in the National Indicator Set measures Working age people claiming out of work benefits in the worst performing neighbourhoods. The data for this indicator is collected through Jobcentre Plus. We have no current plans for any new indicator monitoring benefit claimants in small areas. Consideration of any new indicators within the National Indicator Set will be taken forward as part of preparations for the next government spending review.
Performance against all the National Indicators in each local area will be included in annual reporting of the new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) by the local public service inspectorates. The first CAA reports are expected in November 2009.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether (a) she and (b) Ministers in her Department have received representations from (i) Lord Truscott, (ii) Lord Moonie, (iii) Lord Taylor of Blackburn and (iv) Lord Snape in the last 12 months. 
After the Secretary of State issued her decision to refuse planning permission for development of a natural gas storage facility at Preesall Saltfield, Fleetwood,
Lancashire on 16 October 2007, Lord Taylor of Blackburn asked my noble Friend Baroness Andrews whether representatives of Canatxx Ltd. could meet officials. Representatives of Canatxx met policy officials on 6 December 2007 to discuss general policy on gas storage facilities.
Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what grants, other than local government finance settlements, her Department and its predecessors have made in respect of the Luton Borough Council area in each year since 1997. 
Furthermore, the following table gives an update on the final outturn figures for 2007-08 and planned expenditure for this financial year for grants made by this Department other than local government finance settlements.
|2007-08 final outturn||2008-09 plan|
|(1) In 2008, the Planning Delivery Grant programme was replaced by Housing and Planning Delivery-Grant.|
(2) Figures are allocated funding.
(3) Direct funding from Communities and local Government for local Area Agreement grants, which was a pooling of many different types of grants previously funded separately, ceased, in 2008 and was absorbed by the commencement of the Area Based Grant in April 2008.
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