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The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The indicative budget for 2010-11, communicated to probation chiefs in February 2009 was £844 million, compared with a budget of £894 million in 2009-10. This would have been a 5.6 per cent. reduction year-on-year.
In the light of strong representations I have received from the probation service and from the probation unions, and my particular concern about employment
prospects for recently qualified probation officers, I can announce today that the confirmed 2010-11 allocation will be £870 million, £26 million more than the original indicative budget. This equates to a reduction of 2.68 per cent. year-on-year. This is consistent with the savings expected across the public service.
In this economic climate the probation service along with all public services has to achieve efficiency savings. Probation boards and trusts have been required to review their structures, overheads, support services and efficiency levels. This funding will enable probation boards/trusts to review their staffing plans for 2010-11 which will benefit both the September 2009 graduates and the 305 trainee probation officers due to graduate in September 2010.
The additional funding will be targeted to increase confidence in community penalties and divert low risk offenders from short term custody. Directors of offender management will be required to negotiate specific service improvements with individual boards/trusts which will be incorporated in SLAs contracts for 2010-11 to ensure that this additional funding is targeted on front line delivery. Detailed work will be undertaken by directors of offender management with areas/trusts to agree additional service delivery requirements and finalise individual allocations.
The total case load of offenders being supervised by the probation service rose by 53 per cent. between 31 December 1997 and 31 December 2008 (from 159,200 to 243,400). This compares to an overall rise in the probation service budget of 70 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2007.
The total offender case load has remained stable in recent years. At 31 December 2007 there were 242,700 offenders being supervised, compared to 243,400 at 31 December 2008 and 244,300 at 31 March 2009.
The overriding priority for the probation service is public protection which will not be put at risk. Probation areas are looking to make any required savings through back office and management rationalisation and improvements in efficiency and processes, protecting front line delivery.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland is responsible for all aspects of electoral administration in Northern Ireland, including the conduct of all elections and referendums, as well as electoral registration. Section 14 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962-as amended by Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006-provides that the Chief Electoral Officer must submit an annual report to the Secretary of State. The annual report of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland for the year 2008-09 has been laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.
The ex-Metronet investment programme covers the upgrade, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure on the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria, Waterloo and City and the sub-surface (Metropolitan, Circle, District, Hammersmith and City) lines. It will deliver nearly 30 per cent. more capacity across the network, improving journey times and reliability.
Following the administration of Metronet in July 2007, its assets and obligations were transferred to Transport for London in May 2008 as an interim measure. The former Mayor and Secretary of State for Transport tasked a Joint Steering Committee consisting of Transport for London (TfL) including London Underground Ltd (LUL), the Department for Transport and HM Treasury with considering a range of options for the permanent structure of the Metronet contracts, with the objective of providing a stable and safe operational framework and delivering the modernisation, upgrade and maintenance of the tube infrastructure at an affordable price that offered value for money for the taxpayer.
The Mayor and I have accepted the committee's recommendations that the contracts inherited from Metronet should remain under the direct management of LUL as the best value option under the present circumstances, with the majority of upgrades already underway. Some of these contracts have since been renegotiated to secure more favourable terms for LUL. Future contracts will be procured directly by LUL, including robust performance incentives and transferring risk where appropriate. LUL will remain responsible for all asset management decisions, but there will continue to be substantial private sector involvement through the contracts managed by LUL. A decision on the most appropriate contracting arrangement for the Bakerloo line upgrade (which has not yet started) will be taken nearer the time, reflecting lessons learnt from the earlier upgrades.
LUL is investing in its management and organisational capacity and capability in order to meet this new challenge. Organisational restructuring within LUL has also created a clearer separation of client and delivery functions, with a defined sponsor for each project.
Underpinning these new arrangements and responding to the increased size of TfL's investment programme are new scrutiny measures at Transport for London. The Mayor will establish an independent advisory panel with remit extending across the entirety of the TfL investment programme, including all maintenance, renewal, upgrades and major projects across the modes, but not operations.
Members of the new panel will be appointed by the Mayor from a shortlist agreed with me. The Mayor and I will also agree the panel's terms of reference. The panel will report to the TfL board and the Mayor as its chair. The members of the panel will have experience in a range of disciplines including engineering, finance and project management, ensuring that as a whole the panel will be able to offer expert advice, opinion and challenge on all aspects of TfL's investment programme, including the ex-Metronet works.
The panel will be able to review all aspects of project delivery including cost and programme deliverability. It will also review delivery of the investment programme at a portfolio level, including management and organisational capability and the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of delivery of the investment programme. The panel will report its findings directly to the TfL board, who will also receive a TfL management response setting out how the issues raised have been or will be dealt with. The panel will commission other reports as it or the TfL board consider appropriate. It will publish an annual report making overall conclusions on the
delivery of the investment programme. Copies of all reports will be provided to me, in view of Government's significant contribution to the investment programme through the GLA transport grant which accounts for just under 40 per cent. of TfL's total income.
These new arrangements build on the work of LUL during the interim period and will offer the stability and certainty LUL need to deliver the investment programme inherited from Metronet and with it the improvements so critical to growth and prosperity in London.
These arrangements are in accordance with the existing framework of devolution of powers to the Mayor, who now bears full responsibility for delivery of the upgrade, maintenance and renewal work previously the responsibility of Metronet.
Tube lines will remain responsible for the upgrade, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines under its PPP, with independent scrutiny provided by the PPP arbiter.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): The Secretary of State for Transport has today laid regulations under the Local Transport Act 2008 which will allow the owners of private hire vehicles (PHVs) to use their vehicles to provide local bus services.
Section 53 of the 2008 Act allows the holder of a PHV licence to acquire a special public service vehicle (PSV) licence from the traffic commissioner and to register a local bus service using a licensed PHV.
The regulations apply in England, (outside London), Wales and Scotland. Transport for London are responsible for making any regulations governing PHV-buses in London. The ability to run bus services has been available to the owners of licensed taxis since 1986.
The change introduces the requirement for most customers to be interviewed at a local Jobcentre Plus office when they make a third or subsequent application for a crisis loan to cover living expenses.
During such an interview customers will be provided with a leaflet that contains details of local and national organisations that can provide money management advice. The leaflet has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and copies are also available in the Vote office.