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Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will bring forward proposals to ensure that a benefit claimant's first sanction for an offence should not involve loss of benefit. 
Section 24 of the Welfare Reform Act 2009, to be commenced in April 2010, provides for loss or reduction of benefit for a period of four weeks for a first offence of benefit fraud that results in a conviction, administrative penalty or caution. The aim of this measure is to deter those thinking about committing benefit fraud from doing so. However, those who persist will face a loss or reduction of continuing benefit.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment she has made of the outcome of Operation Golf in respect of identification of benefit fraud originating outside the UK; and (a) which resources and (b) how many staff of her Department and its agencies are assigned to the detection of such frauds. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 25 January 2010]: Operation Golf is an ongoing Metropolitan Police Service investigation and it will fall to the Metropolitan Police Service to respond. Where appropriate these matters are jointly investigated under a Joint Statement of Intent between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Metropolitan police. Intelligence suggesting possible benefit abuse arising from Operation Golf is disseminated and referred to DWP and/or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for investigation.
The Fraud Investigation Service was set up as a national service in April 2006 to investigate fraudulent activity against all benefits administered by DWP. The Fraud Investigation Service structure includes two national teams; one specialising in investigating cases where there is a suggestion of serious and/or organised criminality and another in gathering and analysis of intelligence. Resources are deployed in direct proportion to the needs of an investigation.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of local authorities disregard war pension payments for the purposes of means testing for (a) council tax and (b) housing benefit. 
Helen Goodman: There is a statutory disregard on income from war pensions (war disablement pension, a pension to a war widow or war widower or a similar pension paid to a surviving civil partner) which applies to all income-related benefits including housing benefit and council tax benefit.
Currently all local authorities provide some form of additional disregard. However, DWP does not maintain a central record of the proportion of income each local authority disregards; this information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
5. Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations he has received from the construction industry on the housing pledge; and if he will make a statement. 
John Healey: The housing pledge was part of the Government's response to the economic crisis. It has provided public investment to deliver new homes and jobs across every region of the country. It was welcomed by Stewart Baseley (Executive Chairman, HBF) as:
"a real boost for potential home owners, the industry and wider economy".
17. Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations his Department has received on council tax rebanding; and if he will make a statement. 
18. Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which types of business he expects to experience the highest increase in rateable values as a result of the April 2010 business rate revaluation. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The majority of business properties will see their rates bill decrease as a result of revaluation. Our £2 billion transitional relief scheme will limit the impact of the highest increases in 2010-11 rates bills to no more than 11 per cent., and just 3.5 per cent. for small properties.
21. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will conduct an impact assessment on the effect on businesses of the 2010 business rate revaluation. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Regular revaluations are a standard part of the business rates system and are required by statute. We have considered carefully the impact of the 2010 revaluation which is why we are introducing a £2 billion transitional relief scheme. A final impact assessment of our transitional relief scheme for revaluation 2010 was published on 17 November 2009.
19. Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what methodology his Department plans to use to evaluate the effectiveness of the home information pack programme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ian Austin: As my hon. Friend the Housing Minister said in response to a written question from the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), 21 January 2010, Official Report, column 482W, we intend to evaluate the effectiveness of HIPs by updating "The HIP Baseline Research Report", published in January 2007. A copy of this report is available on the CLG website.
22. Derek Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment he has made of the performance of local authorities in promoting economic regeneration in the north-west. 
Ms Rosie Winterton:
There are many examples of local authority activity to promote economic regeneration in the north-west. Local authorities were recently assessed
as part of the joint inspectorate comprehensive area assessment (CAA). The results are publicly available on the Oneplace website.
23. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects to announce the level of growth funding which his Department will provide to Cherwell District Council in respect of the North West Bicester eco-town. 
24. Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department's connecting communities programme. 
Mr. Denham: We are commissioning a national evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of the connecting communities programme. This will be conducted in two phases, the first phase reporting at the end of June 2010, and the second phase reporting at the end of December 2010.
Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have used his Department's connecting communities programme to place people seeking work in vacancies offered under the future jobs fund. 
Mr. Denham: The connecting communities programme is providing support to those communities most vulnerable as a result of the recession, focusing on issues of jobs, homes, crime and antisocial behaviour and opportunities for young people.
There are early indications that the programme is helping people benefit from the Future Jobs Fund. For example, in Nottingham, Aspley neighbourhood, a scheme is being developed to train people to mentor 96 long-term unemployed people who are being supported under the Future Jobs Fund. Last week I visited Athersley and New Lodge in Barnsley and saw how practical actions taken through connecting communities had already helped 16 people from the St. Helens ward access employment.
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Meriden of 7 December 2009, Official Report, column 60W, on the Audit Commission: public relations, if he will make an assessment of the compliance of the Audit Commission's engagement of a public affairs firm with
Cabinet Office's guidance on use of public relations consultancy and agencies by non-departmental public bodies. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Although the Audit Commission did not seek advice from the Department, officials have reviewed the information provided by the Audit Commission about the work done for them by public relations firm Connect Public Affairs and are satisfied that this is within the scope of activity allowed under Cabinet Office guidance.
Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many planning applications for children's homes under Class C2 of the Town and Country Planning Order 1987 were (a) submitted, (b) granted and (c) refused in each local authority in England and Wales in each of the last five years. 
Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) associated non-departmental public bodies plan to sign up to the 10:10 campaign for cutting carbon usage in 2010; and if he publish the (i) criteria and (ii) research upon which such a decision will be taken. 
Barbara Follett: The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has already signed up to the 10:10 campaign for cutting carbon emissions by 10 per cent. in 2010; and is committed to working towards this target with its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). CLG understands the 10:10 campaign to relate to carbon emissions from energy use, owned vehicles and air travel.
The CLG Group, which includes its executive agencies and selected NDPBs, reduced reported emissions from energy use by over 10 per cent. in 2008-09 compared to the previous year and has already reduced emissions from road travel by 30 per cent. compared to the Sustainable Operations (SOGE) target to reduce by 15 per cent. by 2010-11 against 2005-06 levels. Given these recent successes, it is particularly challenging to reduce emissions by a further 10 per cent. in 2010 across such a diverse estate and range of organisations.
CLG's ongoing research and analysis, which informs its wider Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan, indicates that a further 10 per cent. reduction should be possible across its headquarter estate in 2010. These reductions are expected to be delivered by continued estate rationalisation, upgrade of lighting, heat recovery projects and more efficient operation of plant and machinery.
Specific research includes assessments of estate strategies, FM and engineering practices and asset replacement opportunities. These will then be prioritised based on payback and availability of resources.
In assessing its approach to short term targets such as 10:10, the Department remains mindful of its long term strategy for meeting its Carbon Budget allocations, necessary to deliver the 80 per cent. reduction by 2050, as required by the Climate Change Act 2008.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much his Department spent on bottled drinking water in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much has been spent on (a) strategy and planning, (b) design and build, (c) hosting and infrastructure, (d) content provision and (e) testing and evaluation for his Department's websites in each of the last three years; and how much has been allocated for each such category of expenditure in 2009-10. 
Barbara Follett: The Department does not hold website cost information for the year 2006-07. For information on website costs for the year 2007-08 I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) on 3 November 2008, Official Report, column 119W.
For information on website costs 2008-09 and forecast costs for 2009-10 I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) on 6 May 2009, Official Report, columns 234-35W.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much expenditure was incurred in the (a) disposal and (b) modification of signage consequent on the creation of his Department. 
Barbara Follett: The Department for Communities and Local Government spent £5,000 on replacement signage at the time the Department was created. The Department is unable to provide specific costs for (a) the disposal and (b) the modification of signage.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what average time his Department took to answer questions for (a) ordinary written answer and (b) written answer on a named day in the last 12 months. 
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how much (a) Cumbria County Council and (b) the Lake District National Park Authority has (i) applied for and (ii) received under the Bellwin scheme in each year since 2004; 
Ms Rosie Winterton: To date, the Lake District National Park Authority has not applied for or received any funding under the Bellwin scheme. In the case of the most recent Bellwin scheme, for the flooding in Cumbria in November 2009, the authority has registered an intention to claim Bellwin assistance but a formal claim has not yet been received.
Cumbria county council has similarly registered an intention to claim Bellwin assistance in respect of the November 2009 floods but has not yet submitted a claim. In addition, the county council applied for and received Bellwin grant in respect of the flooding in Cumbria in January 2005. Cumbria county council received £536,487 for this scheme, which was equal to 85 per cent. of eligible costs above a threshold of 0.2 per cent. of its annual revenue budget.
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