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1 July 2009 : Column 306W—continued

Business Disruption Plans

11. Greg Mulholland: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps her Department is taking as part of its civil contingencies responsibilities to increase the proportion of small businesses which have a business disruption plan. [283148]

Tessa Jowell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier today.

Emergency Planning College

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when she last visited her Department’s Emergency Planning College to discuss its work; and if she will make a statement. [277326]

Tessa Jowell: I was appointed as Minister for the Cabinet Office on 5 June 2009 and have not yet visited the Emergency Planning college.

I will receive regular updates from the head of the civil contingencies secretariat on all civil contingencies matters.

Lobbying: Government

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the level of information which is published about relations between Government and lobbyists. [283138]

Angela E. Smith: Ministers meet many people as part of the process of policy development and analysis. All such contacts are conducted in accordance with the “Ministerial Code”.

The Government are currently considering a recommendation from the Public Administration Select Committee on this issue and will respond shortly.

Children, Schools and Families


Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many people in apprenticeships became unemployed in (a) the last six months for which figures are available and (b) the six-month period a year before that six-month period. [281435]

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Kevin Brennan: We do not currently hold data centrally about the total number of apprentices made redundant. Arrangements are in place from 1 August 2009 onwards to record the number of apprentices who are made redundant. Working with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) we have established a matching service to help apprentices at risk of redundancy to find alternative employment and to complete their apprenticeship. More generally, providers and the LSC have procedures to advise and relocate apprentices, in cases where providers or employers fail, to help ensure that they are able to continue in work and complete their apprenticeship. The £140 million package announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for an additional 35,000 apprenticeship places will help fund new provision in both the public sector and private sector, and will extend the opportunities available to people facing redundancy.

Departmental Older Workers

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many staff in his Department will reach the age of 65 years by the year 2011. [283364]

Ms Diana R. Johnson: In the Department, 29 of existing employees will be 65 or older by 2011.

Further Education: Standards

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps have been taken to ensure consistent (a) assessment, (b) recording and (c) quality assurance of educational standards in the 14-19 diplomas. [282880]

Mr. Iain Wright: Diplomas come under the responsibility of the independent regulator of qualifications and examinations, Ofqual. Ofqual has responsibility to protect the interests of learners by ensuring that results are fair and accurate and that assessment and standards are appropriately established and comparable across awarding bodies.

I have asked the Chief Regulator to write to my hon. Friend to set out the steps taken in relation to Diploma assessment, recording and quality assurance.


Departmental Pay

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland which sections of his Department have requested money saved from efficiency savings to be used for increased pay in their 2009 pay offer to staff. [283214]

Ann McKechin: All staff in the Scotland Office are on secondment from the Scottish Executive or the Ministry of Justice who each have separate pay awards in place for their employees. The Office only reimburses those Departments for the costs involved.

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Hebrides Range

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence on the relocation of operations away from the Hebrides Range. [282573]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I discuss a variety of issues with Ministry of Defence ministerial colleagues including the Secretary of State. I also hosted a meeting of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) and the Western Isles Council established task group today at Dover House.

Communities and Local Government

Business: Government Assistance

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many small businesses in (a) Tamworth constituency and (b) the West Midlands claimed relief under the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme in the most recent period for which figures are available. [283230]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Tamworth borough council reported that the number of businesses receiving small business rate relief was 422 at 31 December 2006, the latest date for which data are available. At the same date, the number of businesses in the West Midlands receiving small business rate relief was 40,138. Data are not available at constituency level.

Council of Regional Ministers

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the Council of Regional Ministers last met. [283136]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Council of Regional Ministers, which meets every six weeks or so, last met on 16 June 2009.

Council Tax: Appeals

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many council tax appeals the Valuation Tribunal Service has considered in each of the last five years; and how many resulted in a change to a lower band for the dwelling in question. [282751]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS) has held information centrally on the number of successful appeals since the beginning of 2006-07 in England.

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Number of council tax appeals received Number of council tax appeals considered by tribunals Number of council tax appeals allowed or allowed in part Number of decisions resulting in a lower band


























n/a = Not available

Appeals to the VTS can be made about matters other than a property's banding. The VTS has held information centrally on whether appeals resulted in a change of banding only since 2008-09.

Council tax policy in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.


Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for implementation of each proposal contained in his Department's response to the Councillors Commission. [282746]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Councillors Commission Report ‘Representing the Future’ published in December 2007 made a number of recommendations aimed at central Government and a range of other partners and stakeholders. We published a response to ‘Representing the Future’ in July 2008 which set out who was taking forward which recommendations and how.

The Local Government Association, Improvement and Development Agency and the Leadership Centre for local government are taking forward the following actions, which were aimed at local authorities:

Other recommendations were aimed specifically at political parties, the BBC and Ofcom, and employers and we trust that they are taking forward their commitments in response to these.

The Government are taking forward the following actions.

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Recommendation Action

Recommendation 1—Introduce a statutory duty to promote democracy

This is being taken forward in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (Clauses 1-9) which recently completed Committee stage in the House of Commons. We intend for the duty to be implemented in April 2010.

Recommendations 6 and 7—Work with Third Sector on Councillor Communications

The Empowerment Fund is funding third sector organisations Urban Forum and Bassac over three years from 2009-10 to 2011-12 to carry out work under the theme of improving communications between councillors and citizens.

Recommendation 11—Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Women Councillors Taskforce

This was launched in May 2008. 13 outreach events have been held across the country to date reaching over 800 women. In April 2009, the first national councillor mentoring/shadowing scheme was launched as part of the Taskforce project. This scheme is for 50 women with an additional 50 places on an e-training learning programme to obtain a community leadership qualification.

Recommendations 12, 30 and 46—Revise the publicity code and associated guidance

Consultation on this finished in mid March. Consultation included a question on whether specific guidance on councillors’ support needs to be clarified. Government are currently looking at the consultation findings and will decide what, if any, revisions are to be made and the timetable for any revisions.

Recommendations 13, 14—New Secondary curriculum and revision of Primary curriculum; Young Mayors and Young Advisors

QCA are currently running a consultation on proposed reforms to the primary curriculum including citizenship - the consultation closes on 24 July 2009. From January 2010, schools will be assisted with implementation by a comprehensive support package to aid them in planning for the new curriculum. The new curriculum began rolling out in secondary schools from September 2008, beginning with Key Stage 3. Changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum begin rolling out in September 2009 in line with changes to GCSEs. Young Mayors: CLG will be inviting applications in July from local authorities who would like to host a Young Mayor scheme. Details of successful applicants will be announced in late August. Young Advisors: CLG has supported the Young Advisors Charity to extend the Young Advisors scheme to more local areas. There are now 41 schemes operating across the country at a local level with around 400 trained Young Advisors.

Recommendation 23—Revising politically restricted posts

Amendments to the Widdicombe rules removing the salary bar have been taken forward in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament.

Recommendation 29—Work with audit commission on CAAs to consider how council leadership reflects the community

The CAA guidance for inspectorate staff makes specific reference in its section on empowerment to the Network of Empowering Authorities framework, which provides a benchmark for an ‘ideal’ authority. The framework includes ‘strong democracy’ as a key success factor setting out that an ideal authority would be where 'community involvement encourages more people to take on governance roles and stand for office. Members and officers proactively promote democracy, raising understanding and awareness among citizens and young people’. The accompanying diagnostic questions include: ‘Does the profile of your Members reflect that of your local population?’

Recommendation 51—Accreditation

In addition to work being developed by the local government sector, we are taking forward a review of accreditation as part of the Take Part programme of work. A review was completed in February 2009 and proposals for taking forward an accreditation programme are being currently being considered.

Recommendation 52--Alderwomen

During the passage of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (LDEDC Bill) an Opposition amendment was laid in the House of Lords regarding the use of the title “alderwomen” and this is now included in the Bill.

Recommendation 56—Parish and Town Councillors

The Department is funding NALC to conduct an annual survey of the profiles of parish councillors, including analysis and dissemination. Councils that have achieved Quality Status (over 650) will be surveyed in 2009-10 and all parish councils (over 9,000) in 2010-11.

Provisions for loss of office payments, remote attendance at council meetings and remote voting, and voting incentives were originally to be included in a draft Community Empowerment Bill. Given the stage of the parliamentary cycle, we have decided to concentrate our energy on the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which contains the major proposals from the Councillors Commission, and not to publish a draft Empowerment Bill. We therefore have no current plans for legislation to implement these proposals.

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