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30 Jun 2010 : Column 585W—continued

Estate Agents

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent meetings Ministers in his Department have had with representatives of the estate agency industry. [4444]

Grant Shapps: Since the Coalition Government was formed, no CLG Minister has met with representatives of the estate agency industry.

Housing Benefit: Homlessness

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect of proposed changes to the payment of housing benefit on (a) levels of homelessness and (b) demand for affordable housing in each of the next five years. [4551]

Grant Shapps: Ministers from this Department regularly meet with their colleagues in other Departments including those at the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss cross cutting issues.

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the June 2010 Budget, what his most recent estimate is of the effect on the level of homelessness of the proposed changes to housing benefit; and what estimate he has made of the likely cost to the public purse. [4679]

Grant Shapps: The Department for Work and Pensions undertakes an assessment of the impact on specific groups as part of the policy development process. DWP will publish formal impact assessments in due course.

Housing: Finance

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the Financial Statement of 22 June 2010, Official Report, columns 116-30, how much of the future funding agreed before 24 May 2010 he now plans to allocate to expenditure on housing. [4531]

Grant Shapps: We are clear that having reviewed the overall financial position, the previous Government have left a large funding black hole in their plans for social housing. This Government, as part of their plans to tackle this funding black hole, have chosen to recycle £170 million of the £6.2 billion of efficiency savings announced last month into social housing.

The Emergency Budget on 22 June set out further measures to deal with the budget deficit and give confidence to the economy. With regards to housing budgets we are continuing to review the position with HM Treasury and will be reaching a conclusion soon.


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Local Government Finance

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects the local government finance review to (a) commence and (b) conclude. [4896]

Robert Neill: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) on 8 June 2010, Official Report, column 132W.

Local Government Finance: Stockton

Alex Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 10 June 2010, Official Report, columns 15-17WS, on the local government savings package, what assessment he has made of the likely effects on the provision of services in Stockton of changes to his Department's funding allocation in 2010-11. [4578]

Robert Neill: We have asked local authorities to make a contribution of £1.166 billion to the £6.2 billion of cross-Government savings in 2010-11 to enable the Government to take immediate action to start to tackle the fiscal deficit. Of this, £358.5 million will come from my Department's budget and £175.0 million will come from the budget which my Department holds on behalf of Government as a whole.

The reduction in grants for individual local authorities for which final allocations had been announced is set out in the document made available to the House at the time of the written ministerial statement of 10 June 2010, Official Report, columns 15-17WS.

Local authorities are free to make their own decisions about where savings are found. We have ensured that councils have the flexibility to take decisions locally on how to deliver the savings needed without impacting on essential frontline services.

Non-domestic Rates: Garages and Petrol Stations

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment has been made of the appropriateness of the methodology for calculating business rates for petrol stations. [4299]

Mr Gauke: I have been asked to reply.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) keeps all its rating methodologies under constant review to ensure they provide accurate valuations.

Following meetings with representatives of the petrol station industry, in which new information was provided, adjustments have been made to some of the figures used within the methodology for valuing petrol stations for non-domestic rating purposes. As a result the VOA will shortly be issuing revised valuations.

Social Rented Housing: Rents

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he plans to ease restrictions on rent rises for (a) local authorities and (b) housing associations. [4442]


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Grant Shapps: There are no current plans to ease restrictions on rent rises.

Urban Areas: Sustainable Development

John Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what financial and other support his Department has provided to local authorities that have bid successfully for the establishment of an eco-town or eco-development in their area in the last 12 months. [4443]

Grant Shapps: Local authorities at the locations with potential to have an eco-town have received the 2009-10 funding announced in the Department's press release of 8 February 2010:

A copy of the press release is available in the Library of the House.

Over the last year the Department has also worked with other government Departments to identify support from their programmes for these local authorities.

Wind Power: Planning Permission

Eric Ollerenshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward proposals for a minimum required distance from residential dwellings in respect of the construction of wind farms. [5009]

Robert Neill: Current planning policy does not include an exclusion zone between wind turbines and housing. Rather, each wind farm proposal is assessed on a case by case basis according to its impacts. Looking ahead, we will radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live. In the Coalition Agreement we also said that we will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development. We will make an announcement shortly on how we propose to take forward the national planning framework and the implications for specific areas of planning policy.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Overseas Territories

Dr Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will consider the merits of ending subsidies paid to (a) Bermuda and (b) the Virgin Islands for (i) the regulation of civil aviation and (ii) other services. [4348]

Mr Bellingham: There are no direct subsidies paid to either Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in respect of the regulation of civil aviation services. The Department for Transport funds Air Safety Support International (ASSI), a subsidiary of the Civil Aviation Authority, which is responsible for ensuring that the UK's obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation are met in the Overseas Territories. ASSI also regulates aviation activity in the British Virgin Islands under a contract with the BVI Government.
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The Department for Transport is currently reviewing the scope for obtaining funding for ASSI from the Overseas Territories.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office funds no ongoing or open-ended services in either territory. However, through the Overseas Territories Programme Fund (OTPF), it funds specific projects to support the delivery of the Government's objectives in all the Overseas Territories. In many cases these are also co-funded by the receiving territory. Ministers are reviewing expenditure under the OTPF.

Departmental Manpower

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers are employed by his Department; and at what Civil Service pay grade in each such case. [1249]

Alistair Burt: I refer the hon. Member to the list of Special Adviser appointments published by the Prime Minister on 10 June, Official Report, columns 33-34W.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Press office in London is currently staffed by 22 press officers of the following grades: 1 x SMS, 7 x Band D, 9 x B and C, and 5 x B and B. In addition there are support staff who do not work as press officers.

Departmental Official Cars

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) civil servants and (b) special advisers in his Department are entitled to the use of (i) a car with a dedicated driver, (ii) a car from the Government car pool and (iii) a taxi ordered through a departmental account. [3203]

Alistair Burt: No Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials or special advisers in the UK have a dedicated car or driver. Heads of Mission overseas are allocated a car for their official use. They have first call on the vehicle for official purposes but they are made available for other official business as required. The security situation in some countries may occasionally necessitate the use of dedicated vehicles for staff.

FCO Services, an executive agency of the FCO operating independently as a trading fund, operates a small pool of vehicles and security cleared drivers used mainly for transportation of diplomatic bags and other classified material. Certain senior officials (including the Permanent Under-Secretary) are able to draw on this pool for official and operationally necessary travel, on a pay-per-use basis with bookings made in advance. Use of the FCO Services car pool is subject to operational need and governed by strict internal guidelines.

FCO staff travel by the most efficient means of transport, bearing in mind the operational requirement and the need to secure value for money for the public purse. Public transport is used whenever possible and staff avoid using taxis on official business unless it is absolutely necessary.

Staff should not normally use a taxi at public expense between home and office-nor between airports and central London-except for journeys during the hours when public transport is not running. If it is absolutely
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necessary for staff to work after 9 pm or before 7 am, they may consider taking a taxi from their destination station to their home address or vice versa.

Departmental Pay

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was paid in bonuses to civil servants in his Department in 2009-10. [2179]

Alistair Burt: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) paid a total of £7,457,502 in non-consolidated, variable, performance related pay in 2009-10. This represents 2.6%of the total pay bill for UK based staff.

£1,052,271 was paid to staff employed by FCO Services, a trading fund of the FCO, and £61,029 to staff employed by Wilton Park, an executive agency of the FCO.

A close and effective link between pay and performance is a key element of the pay arrangements for the civil service. For the senior civil service (SCS), for whom pay is managed by the Cabinet Office and which is based on recommendations by the Senior Salaries Review Body, performance incentives are paid primarily as non-consolidated performance payments.

Non-consolidated, variable, performance related payments help drive continuing high performance as they must be re-earned each year. Performance is measured through the annual appraisal process which is designed specifically to help staff develop their potential and make the fullest contribution towards the achievement of FCO objectives.

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 7 June 2010, Official Report, column 22-3W, on departmental manpower, what the salary range is of staff employed at each grade in the private office of each Minister in his Department. [3242]

Alistair Burt: The salary ranges of staff in the ministerial private offices are:

£

Al

16,135-17,166

A2

18,525-21,696

B3

21,432-27,385

C4

26,102-32,509

D6

43,084-55,782

D7

54,340-67,861

SMS2

82,900-162,500


Departmental Private Education

Mr Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was spent by his Department on private or independent school education of children of serving staff in each of the last five years. [1625]

Alistair Burt: It is a condition of their employment that members of the Diplomatic Service (DS) must be prepared to serve anywhere in the world at any time during their career, sometimes at very short notice. Those with children have a legal obligation as parents to ensure that their children receive a full-time education
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from the age of five years. Members of the Diplomatic Service pay UK tax wherever they work and are entitled to have their children educated at public expense. Most parents prefer to take their children with them on posting, but in some countries we do not permit staff to take their children either for health or security reasons. In others, local schools of an acceptable standard are not available. Continuity of education is also an important factor, particularly at secondary level.

Children's education should not be disadvantaged by the fact that their parents are in the Diplomatic Service. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) helps staff meet their potentially conflicting obligations by providing financial support for their children's education in the UK where staff choose this, or are obliged to do so given local conditions in the country to which they are posted. We expect children who accompany their parents on postings overseas to use free state schooling if it is available locally and suitable. If suitable English-language schooling is not available free of charge locally, but is available at fee-charging schools, we refund fees to enable children to receive the education they would be entitled to in the UK. This provision applies to all our diverse DS staff posted overseas, including junior support staff and single parents.

Over the last five years the Department has paid for between 1,500 and 2,000 children of British diplomats to receive the education to which they are entitled, either in the UK or at local schools overseas. Expenditure in the UK has decreased in real terms as fewer families now choose boarding school but costs of schools overseas have increased as sterling has weakened. The costs are as follows:-

Education in the UK
(£)

2009-10

9,399,215

2008-09

9,381,705

2007-08

8,951,104

2006-07

9,242,316

2005-06

9,361,407


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