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Government Websites

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Cabinet Office has published Guidelines for UK Government Websites: Illustrated Handbook for Web Management Teams a best practice guide for departments on the building and management of websites. Additionally in July 2003 the Office of the e-Envoy published the Quality Framework for UK Government Website Design, which covers usability issues.

Since February 2001 it has been government policy that all new or redesigned websites meet the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines.

Local Authorities: Charges for Discretionary Services

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

12 Nov 2003 : Column WA206

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government have today published guidance for best value authorities in England on the general power to charge for discretionary services provided in the Local Government Act 2003. Copies of the guidance are available in the Libraries of both Houses. Separate guidance is to be issued for Wales.

The Local Government Act 2003 provides all best value authorities in England and Wales with a new power to charge for discretionary services (Section 93). Charges made under the new general power are subject to certain restrictions including a duty to ensure that the income from charges does not exceed the costs of provision.

The guidance offers advice on:

    the scope of the general power to charge for discretionary services;

    which authorities benefit from the power;

    discretionary services;

    the limitation to cost recovery;

    calculating the costs and setting the charge;

    the Competition Acts and the effect on local businesses;

    the power at Section 94 to disapply the new power to charge; and

    the power at Sections 97 and 98 to modify existing legislation that in some way restricts an authority's ability to charge for the provision of a discretionary service under Section 93.

This guidance applies only to the new power at Section 93 of the Act to charge for discretionary services and to the related powers at Sections 94 and 97 and 98 of the Act. It is issued under the power at Section 93(6). Best-value authorities must have regard to the advice it contains when charging for discretionary services using the new power. Copies are being sent to all best-value authorities and other interested parties. The guidance builds on the draft published for consultation in March 2003 and takes account of the responses received to that consultation.

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