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Lord McKenzie of Luton: The FSCS is an independent body that is accountable to the FSA. I understand that its 2005 annual report sets out a number of measures that are being taken in order to reduce waiting times. These measures include a 41 per cent. increase in staff, process streamlining and greater use of technology.
Lord Adonis: Under the Fostering Services Regulations 2002, fostering service providers are required to provide advice, information, training and support for foster carers. The national minimum standards require each approved foster carer to be supervised by a named and appropriately qualified social worker.
Through the three-year Choice Protects programme, we have made available funding of £113 million to local authorities, aimed principally at supporting them in improving, expanding and strengthening their fostering services. We are also funding a number of specific initiatives to improve support and training for foster carers. These include the establishment of a national advice line, a project aimed at improving the support given to foster carers who are subject to allegations and work to improve training opportunities for foster carers.
Lord Adonis: The new schools framework, which provides for schools to be community, foundation or voluntary schools, was introduced in September 1999. The first school census carried out after the introduction of the framework showed that there were 359 foundation primary schools (including middle deemed primary schools) in England in January 2000.
Following the introduction of the new framework, schools were unable to publish proposals to change category until 1 September 2000. The table below provides details of the numbers of proposals published for primary schools to change school category to foundation, and the outcome of those proposals.
|Approved by SOC||Rejected by SOC||Approved by schools adjudicator||Rejected by schools adjudicator||Total|
The department has not been informed of any proposals published in 2005 to date. All proposals where the local school organisation committee cannot reach a unanimous decision within a specified period must be referred to the schools adjudicator for decision.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Government accepted the recommendations of Sir Peter Gershon's Independent Review of Public Sector Efficiency. Efficiency targets, set out for each department in the spending review 2004 White Paper, will deliver over £20 billion in annual efficiencies by 2007-08. Budget 2005 reported that the first £2 billion of efficiency savings had already been achieved. The resources freed up by efficiency savings will be reinvested to support frontline delivery of services.
Departmental restructuring was not an explicit objective of the Gershon review, but some departments are streamlining internal activities, such as in the provision of corporate services, in order to achieve efficiency gains. Departmental efficiency programmes are summarised in Annex C of the Gershon report, available on the Treasury website.
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How many contracts worth £500,000 or more were awarded by the Department of Health on a single tender basis in each of the past five years; and what were the main features of those contracts. [HL1277]
Lord McKenzie of Luton: The only contract worth more than £500,000 awarded by the Treasury on a single tender basis in the past five years is the contract with Partnerships UK, awarded in 2001. Partnerships UK is a private sector organisation with 44.6 per cent. Treasury shareholding and a public sector mission. The framework agreement between Treasury and PUK formed part of the original vesting of PUK as a PPP in 2000 and was designed to enable PUK to continue the work of the Treasury Taskforce, which it absorbed. The framework agreement covers a broad range of PUK support work including a helpdesk free at the point of use, policy support and individual call-off arrangements for, for example, the enforcement of standardisation policy and the Refinancing Taskforce.
How many contracts worth £500,000 or more were awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions on a single tender basis in each of the past five years; and what were the main features of those contracts. [HL1337]
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Department for Work and Pensions has awarded no contracts worth £500,000 or more in the past five years on a single tender basis. The department uses competition to award all contracts not covered by framework agreements and to award its own framework agreementsfor example the ACCORD and IT partnership agreements for IS/IT services.
The Health and Safety Executive, which joined DWP in July 2002 as a non-departmental public body with its own accounting line to Parliament, let one contract on a single-tender basis. This was a contract
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awarded to the British Market Research Bureau valued at about £535,000 to conduct an extensive pilot of the Workplace Health and Safety Survey.
Why the recommendations of the Central Office of Information on the need to avoid using 0870 and other premium charge telephone numbers for the public to obtain official information have not been followed in the case of the number given to those seeking information about victims of the London bombing incidents. [HL1240]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 15 July, The Policing Minister (Hazel Blears) announced an urgent review of the use of 0870 numbers to contact the casualty bureau. That review has now taken place and, with immediate effect, the use of 0870 numbers will be discontinued in respect of casualty bureau access to the public.
0800 numbers will be made available in the future as the main contact number between the Police Service Casualty Bureau and the public. 0800 freephone numbers are free at the point of use to landline customers. Charges to mobile users are based on their mobile tariff. 0800 numbers may not be accessed from overseas and an alternative 020 geographic number is therefore being provided primarily for the use of overseas callers. This number is also available to UK landline customers, including those using mobile phones who may find the charges lower than the standard rate for 0800.
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