The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): On 13 December, I indicated that when the House debated the final local government finance report I would set out council tax capping principles that will apply to local authorities' budgets for 2011-12. I am therefore now informing the House that I will consider an authority to have set an excessive increase if:
in the case of the GLA, because the authority calculates its council tax in a different way from other authorities(2), and
in the case of Central Bedfordshire and Shropshire, because the authorities set their basic amounts of council tax for 2010-11 under part 4 of the Local Government (Structural Changes) (Finance) Regulations 2008(3) and may do so again for 2011-12.
My officials will write to these three authorities separately with further technical details about how the principles applicable to them will operate. However, I can confirm that the policy aim of the capping principles for 2011-12 is the same for all authorities and that the principles for the GLA, Central Bedfordshire and Shropshire are designed to ensure that appropriate comparisons can be made between the band D council tax set by those authorities in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
I am this year announcing these principles before the dates by which authorities have to set their budgets. This contrasts with the approach of the previous Government, which always required authorities to wait and see whether the council tax they had set would be considered excessive by reference to principles not decided until after the deadlines for setting their budgets had passed.
Moving forward, the Government intend to end the capping regime and replace it with a more democratic and localist measure to allow local residents to veto excessive council tax rises via a local referendum.
(1)Alternative notional amounts apply to all classes of authority except for fire and rescue authorities.
(2)Unlike other authorities, the GLA calculates two basic amounts of council tax; one under section 88(2) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and one under section 89(3) of that Act.
(3)SI 2008/3022. Central Bedfordshire and Shropshire were established on 1 April 2009. In order to equalise council tax more fairly in their areas, part 4 of SI 2008/3022 enables the authorities to calculate different basic amounts of council tax for their predecessor areas for up to five financial years. By contrast all other authorities (except the GLA) must calculate only one basic amount of council tax.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): Today the Government are publishing a group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration.
There is a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were produced by the previous Government and over the next few months we will be publishing these reports in groups themed on a particular topic.
The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our freedom of information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research. For transparency, all completed work is being published regardless of format or robustness.
The Government are concerned to ensure their research delivers best possible value for money for the taxpayer and that sums expended are reasonable in relation to the public policy benefits obtained. DCLG has put in place scrutiny and challenge processes for future research.
All new projects will be scrutinised to ensure the methodology is sound and that all options for funding are explored at an early stage. This includes using existing work from other organisations, joint funding projects with other Departments or organisations and taking work forward in-house.
(i) The Economic Cost of Fire: Estimates for 2006-This report provides an estimate of the cost of fire to the economy in England in 2006.
(ii) The Economic Cost of Fire: Estimates for 2008-This report was produced by DCLG researchers. The spreadsheet model developed for the 2006 estimates was used to update the cost of fire estimates to 2008.
(iii) Survey of Retained Duty System (RDS) personnel, former staff and FRS managers-Part A-A survey of serving and former RDS personnel. This is the first part of a report providing findings of a survey of serving and former RDS personnel in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
(iv) A Survey of Retained Duty System (RDS) personnel, former staff and FRS managers-Part B-A survey of RDS managers. This is the second part of the report and provides the findings of an organisational survey completed by RDS managers from fire and rescue services in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
(v) FSEC major incidents risk assessment module: background research-This report details the work carried out to specify a method of assessing the risk from different types of major incident in a way that could be incorporated into the FSEC toolkit software and to provide suitable risk factors based on data available at the time of the work.
These reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not a reflection of the current Government's policies and priorities. DCLG is publishing these reports in the interests of transparency.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson):
Following the counter-terrorism legislation review the Home Secretary decided to replace section 44
of the Terrorism Act 2000 with a more tightly circumscribed power. Consistent with those changes, I have decided to make a similar amendment to a power of stop and search in Northern Ireland.
I intend to amend the power to stop and search a person without reasonable suspicion contained in paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 to the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007. In future, prior authorisation by a senior police officer, confirmed by the Secretary of State, will be required before the power to search a person without reasonable suspicion to ascertain whether he has munitions unlawfully with him or wireless apparatus with him can be exercised by a police officer. I will also create a new power for police officers to search for such items with reasonable suspicion. In due course I will exercise the power in section 34 of the 2007 Act to make a code of practice governing the exercise of these powers.
Changes to the legislation will be brought forward in the protection of freedoms Bill, which will be introduced into Parliament shortly. Robert Whalley, the reviewer of the operation of these powers appointed under section 40 of the 2007 Act, is aware of the changes I plan to make.