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7 May 2009 : Column 396W—continued

Non-Domestic Rates: Licensed Premises

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the Valuation Office Agency’s guidance notes and advice for the rating of licensed premises for the 2010 rates revaluation. [272436]

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John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on 24 November 2008, Official Report, column 966W.

Official Hospitality

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough of 17 March 2009, Official Report, column 1103W, on departmental ministerial policy advisers, whether her Department keeps a register of the (a) declared interests of and (b) gifts, hospitality and benefits in kind received by special advisers. [273364]

Mr. Khan: The Department records declarations of interest, and maintains information about gifts and hospitality received by its staff, including special advisers, in accordance with the requirements of the Civil Service Management Code.

Planning Permission

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the latest timetable is for the introduction of a new version of planning guidance PPS6 to (a) abolish the needs test and (b) introduce a competition test. [272419]

Mr. Iain Wright: On 5 May 2009 we published a consultation draft Planning Policy Statement 4 (PPS): “Planning for Prosperous Economies”. This brings together all of the Government’s key planning policies relating to the economy in both urban and rural areas into one single document, creating a coherent and modern set of policies designed to meet the economic challenges we face both now and over the longer term. This new PPS incorporates “draft PPS 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Development”; “PPG 5: Simplified Planning Zones”; “PPS 6: Planning for Town Centres”; and the economic development policies in “PPS 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas”. We have also published a ‘living draft’ of town centres practice guidance to support the consultation PPS. The consultation documentation for the draft PPS and further details about how to respond are available on the Department’s website at:

The draft practice guidance and further details about how to submit comments are available on the GVA Grimley website at:

The draft PPS does not introduce a competition test. Following the Order made by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) dated 3 April 2009, the Competition Commission (CC) is to reconsider certain aspects of the competition test they proposed as a result of their inquiry into the groceries market. The CC has undertaken to complete this work within the next six months. Government will then consider any revised recommendations made to it.

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Regional Assemblies

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which Regional Assemblies and their successor bodies have offices in (a) Brussels and (b) Strasbourg; and what estimate she has made of the cost to the public purse of such offices in 2008-09. [272339]

John Healey: No regional assembly or successor body has a sole office in either Brussels or Strasbourg. However there are offices for each region in Brussels which are funded by a wide range of partners. The East of England and North West offices are managed by the respective assembly and successor body on behalf of a group of regional partners.

The costs of running these offices are drawn from a wide range of bodies. Records on these costs are not centrally held.

Regional Assemblies: Costs

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the cost of the regional assemblies in England is in 2009-10. [272589]

John Healey: The estimated cost of the regional assemblies and successor bodies for 2009-10 is £18 million.

Regional Planning and Development

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent progress has been made on the National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy. [271576]

Mr. Khan: The National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy was produced to support councils, as leaders of place, working with their local partners to deliver better outcomes, improve the quality of life in places and provide better public services. It commits urban and local governments and making it easier for councils and their partners to access the right support at the right time.

Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships have been successfully launched and their 1st Annual Reports highlight around £100 million of efficiency savings in their first year and significant support to improve performance. They increasingly are providing councils with the mechanism to have a simply conversion for regional improvements needs in their locality.

In the 'Prospectus 2008: the guide to improvement and efficiency support' we set out a comprehensive picture of the support which central and local government are providing to local partners. This document provides a valuable practical tool to help make this happens.

Regional Planning and Development: Green Belt

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the Answer of 2 April 2009, Official Report, columns 1509-10W, on regional spatial strategies, if she will revoke the elements of each regional spatial strategy which specify removal or undermining of green belt protection. [273451]

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Mr. Iain Wright: Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) prepared by regional planning bodies set the framework for green belt policy and settlement policy for each region, forming the strategic planning context for local plan making by local planning authorities. The policies expressed in RSSs relating to green belts have been drafted in accordance with national planning guidance set out in Planning Policy Guidance 2 Green Belts.

Further, green belt policy like all policies contained in RSS is subject to testing through an independent examination at the Examination in Public (EiP), the EiP is also chaired by an independent Chair.

The RSSs do not contain policies which would lead to the removal or undermining of the protection of existing green belt; they do contain policies to carry out reviews of green belt in accordance with PPG2 Green Belts.

Rented Housing

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average length of tenure for a tenant of a house in the (a) registered social landlord and (b) local authority sector was in each year since 1997. [272513]

Mr. Iain Wright: Estimates of the average length of residence of tenants at their current address in (a) the registered social landlord sector and (b) the local authority sector for each year from 1997-98 to 2006-07 are provided in the table. These estimates are based on data from the Survey of English Housing.

Average length of residence at current address, social sector tenants, England, 1997-98 to 2006-07
Years( 1)

Local authority Registered social landlord































(1) Years are given in decimal format, for example the 0.9 in 12.9 refers to 9/10 of a year.
Communities and Local Government, Survey of English Housing.

Social Rented Housing

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in which local authority areas her policy of reducing social housing rents areas will be applied; and if she will make a statement. [273243]

Mr. Iain Wright: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today UIN 272345 to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman).

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Trade Unions

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 9 March 2009, Official Report, column 37W, on trade unions, what office facilities (a) her Department and (b) each of its agencies provide for the exclusive use of each recognised trade union; and what the notional monetary value of such provision was in 2008-09. [271918]

Mr. Khan: The Department and its executive agencies provide recognised trade unions with the following office facilities:

Unit Facilities Notional cost per year (£)

Communities and Local Government HQ

Two offices, with four desks, computers, telephones, fax, printer, separate meeting room, stationery and notice boards


QEII Conference Centre

There are no office facilities provided


Fire Service College

One office, with a desk, computer, telephone and printer


Planning Inspectorate

One office, computers, photocopiers, fax machines and telephones, stationery and notice boards


Unitary Councils

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will estimate the level of savings to the public purse expected to result from the introduction of new unitary authorities. [272260]

John Healey: Whilst we have not estimated the level of savings that would be expected from introducing unitary authorities across England, the nine new unitary councils established on 1 April, which provide services to around 13 per cent. of the population of the two tier areas that existed in England prior to that date, are on track to make savings of over £100 million per annum once they are fully up and running, as well as having new opportunities for redesigning service delivery and simplifying partnership working. Local government in Wales, which is a devolved matter, has been wholly unitary since 1996.

Valuation Office

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will list those local billing authorities which do not communicate with the Valuation Office Agency through the Valuebill and e-BAR interface. [272435]

John Healey: All billing authorities use the Valuebill interface. There are 57 billing authorities who have not submitted any of their Billing Authority Reports (BARs) using the e-BAR facility.

They are:

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