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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps the Valuation Office Agency took to implement the Governments policy that 2000 businesses within the hereditaments of the statutory ports should be separately rated in 2005. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: From 1 April 2005, the statutory ports (i.e. the operational land and buildings occupied by the statutory port operators) were removed from prescribed assessment under paragraph 3 of Schedule 6 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988. Instead, their rateable values were assessed by the Valuation Office Agency using conventional valuation rules (in paragraph 2 of Schedule 6 to the 1988 Act).
Where a company has exclusive use, under a licence or other agreement with the designated port operator, a separate assessment is appropriate. This is a principle that applies right across rating and is not limited to ports. This is a long established principle for assessing properties both pre and post 1 April 2005.
The change in how the port operator was rated did not affect the principle determining whether the operator or occupier was liable to rates. There have been separate assessments at ports for a number of years where the circumstances justify it.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) notified port operators in each scheduled port that they were to be separately rated for business rates; how they were notified; what consultation the VOA held with operators in each port on the matter; and what assessment the VOA made in each case of the business consequence to businesses of the changes. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: On 22 May 2006, the Valuation Office Agency initiated the review of all major ports to ensure consistency of treatment across the ports themselves and with the rating of similar businesses outside. They approached the port operators for full details of all port occupiers andas the information they required was suppliedstarted to inspect all the ports as part of the conventional rating process. A number of instances were found where a property that constituted a separate rateable property was either not assessed at all or was included in the overall port assessment.
Occupiers were initially contacted in writing, by telephone or in person. Depending on the circumstances of the case, more than one inspection may have been required. As part of the review process the Agency highlighted the potential effect of the ports review to the occupiers affected.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what business rate assessments the Valuation Office Agency made on port operators in 2005; when it decided to change these assessments; and for what reason it so decided. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Valuation Office Agency assessed 55 large statutory ports and container terminals as part of the process of compiling the new rating lists for the 2005 revaluation. The original assessments in the 2005 list were produced in good faith on the basis of this information.
It was only after the 2005 rating lists were compiled that, through routine rating work in the port of Southampton, it was established that further properties should be separately assessed. Immediately, on 22 May 2006, the VOA initiated a review of all major ports to ensure consistency of treatment across the ports themselves and with the rating of similar businesses outside.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent payments the North East regional assembly and its successor have made to Sovereign Strategy in each of the last three years; and for what purposes. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Association of North East Councils (ANEC) have checked their records and confirmed that no payments have been made to Sovereign Strategy in any of the last three years from either the North East assembly or themselves.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effect of the requirement of the Local Government Act 2003 in relation to the pooling of receipts from equity share sales on the number of local authorities which offer shared equity housing schemes. 
Mr. Ian Austin: No overall assessment has been made of the effect on all local authorities which offer shared equity schemes of the requirement under section 11 of the Local Government Act 2003 in relation to the pooling of receipts.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which of his Departments budgets have been changed as a result of the proposed additional funding for social homes announced in the Building Britains Future publication. 
John Healey: The £1.5 billion for the Housing Pledge is additional expenditure on new affordable housing and related housing market provision as set out in Building Britains Future. It is funded through contributions from other Government Departments and reprioritisation of Communities and Local Government programmes.
Mr. Ian Austin: Following increased funding nationally from the Department, the Homes and Communities Agency has already allocated £8.6 million of grant funding to Torbay over the period 2008-11. This will deliver 185 new homes for rent and 39 shared ownership homes. Torbay could also benefit from the new funding streams (totalling £1.5 billion) in the Housing Pledge announced as part of Building Britains Future on 29 June.
My predecessor published Proposed Changes to the new South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which would require Torbay to accommodate at least 15,000 new homes between 2006 and 2026, of which at least 35 per cent. should be affordable housing. The core strategy which Torbay borough council are currently preparing as part of their local development framework will set out the policy context for the future development of the area, and will need to address the overall growth levels set out in the RSS.
David Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of providing the 49 additional pitches for Travellers sites in Hinckley and Bosworth required by the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment under the Local Development Framework. 
Mr. Ian Austin: The Hinckley and Bosworth Submission Core Spatial Strategy, part of the LDF, which has yet to be formally adopted, makes provision for an additional 42 residential pitches for Gypsy and Travellers but does not specify the delivery mechanism for these provisions. The expectation is that the Gypsy and Traveller allocations, as with other housing allocations, will be delivered through a mix of public and private investment. For further detail I would refer the hon. Member to Hinckley and Bosworth borough council.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether information derived from (a) building control and (b) planning departments is transferred to the Valuation Office Agency from local authorities using the Valuebill electronic interface. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on 1 May 2008, Official Report, column 672W.
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding had been (a) allocated to, (b) distributed to and (c) spent by local authorities in Neighbourhood Renewal Funding in (i) 2008-09 and (ii) 2009-10 on the latest date for which figures are available; and how
much such funding he expects to be (A) allocated, (B) distributed and (C) spent by local authorities in 2010-11. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF) replaced the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) in April 2008. £464.5 million WNF funds were allocated and distributed to local authorities in 2008-09 and £507.8 million in 2009-10.
Working Neighbourhoods Fund is paid to local authorities through the non-ringfenced area based grant. We expect local authorities to spend all of this money. Local authorities are subject to annual audit by Audit Commission appointed independent auditors who report on whether their general income is used efficiently and effectively with a view to ensuring value for money.