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Authorities will now have until 16 May 2008 to raise any queries or issues about the methodology. I intend to confirm and make payments to authorities as soon as possible after this period.

National Probation Service: Best Value

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Minister of State (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On Wednesday 9 April I will publish a consultation document about the introduction of a best-value system into probation. The consultation period will run until 2 July 2008.

During the passage of the Offender Management Bill last year, the Government signalled a move away from a target-based regime in which probation areas had to outsource a proportion of their work to a model based on the principles of best value. In

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discussion with interested parties, we have drawn up a proposed model for how best value would work and we are now consulting publicly on this.

The proposed best-value model would apply to all services funded by probation boards and trusts. It would enable boards and trusts to demonstrate, in a transparent way, the value for money of their services, and to drive improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their service delivery. Best value reviews would be based around five areas—consult, compare, challenge, collaborate and, where appropriate, compete. The reviews may result in the competition of services, but only if they have shown that that would be the most efficient and effective delivery option. The best-value process is neutral as to the final result. By delivering efficiency savings, best value will provide value for money to the taxpayer and, by improving the effectiveness of service delivery to offenders, it will contribute towards our aim of reducing re-offending.

Copies of the consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and on the internet at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm.

Palestine: Funding

Baroness Crawley: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

We are gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza. The closure of Gaza’s crossings is contributing to the collapse of the economy. There are shortages of essential humanitarian supplies such as medicines, foodstuffs and hearing aids. Restrictions on supplies of fuel and electricity have led to widespread power cuts and water shortages. While we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, we do not support the decision to close Gaza crossings. The Foreign Secretary and I have called on Israel to open them, and to lift all restrictions immediately on humanitarian supplies and electricity. While resolving the humanitarian situation is in the hands of the parties concerned, we are doing what we can to help alleviate the situation.

In order to address the humanitarian situation, to support the Palestinian economy and to meet the urgent funding needs of the Palestinian Authority, we intend to provide an additional £30 million in support to the Palestinians in 2007-08, taking our total contribution to £63.6 million for this financial year. This is part of the pledge of up to £243 million over three years, linked to political progress, which I announced at the Paris donor conference last December. The UK is leading the international community in following through on its Paris pledges promptly, providing funding when it is most needed before other pledges come through.

This new funding will strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to take forward reform at a critical time. It will help pay teachers, doctors and engineers, keep basic services running and meet the budget shortfall

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facing the Government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It will directly benefit Gazans, as well as Palestinians living in the West Bank.

All funding will be delivered through reputable international institutions and safeguards will be put in place to ensure it is properly used. Our support for the Palestinian Authority will be routed through the World Bank and the EC’s new aid fund known as “PEGASE”.

DfID’s support for Gazans includes our agreement to provide £100 million over five years to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides healthcare, housing, education and food to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Seventy per cent of people in Gaza are refugees who will benefit directly from this assistance.

I also announced to the House on 12 March that we will provide £2 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) as a further response to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Playing Fields

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families (Kevin Brennan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Before October 1998, there were no checks in the system to prevent the sale of school playing fields. Local authorities could sell school playing fields and use the proceeds for whatever purpose they saw fit.

Since 1998, under Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, all local authorities and maintained schools in England have needed the consent of the Secretary of State before they can dispose of a school playing field or any part of a school playing field.

Published guidance sets out the criteria for giving consent and makes it clear that a disposal will only be allowed if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools continue to be met. Community usage of school playing fields is considered in decisions and any sale proceeds must be reinvested in outdoor sports facilities where possible, or, if not, in indoor sport or education facilities.



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In addition, since July 2001 all applications to dispose of school playing fields have been scrutinised by an independent school playing fields advisory panel. The panel comprises representatives from Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association), the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Learning through Landscapes, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Local Government Association.

The panel advises the Secretary of State on the extent to which applications meet the published criteria for giving consent. The panel brings a rigorous independent scrutiny to the assessment process.

In November 2004, the rules governing the sale of school playing fields were tightened so that the sale of a playing field is an absolute last resort with local authorities having to demonstrate that they have exhausted all other sources of funding. Sale proceeds must be used to improve outdoor sports facilities where possible and new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years.

This Government have not committed themselves to end the sale of surplus school playing fields in any circumstances. What we did commit to end was the previous position of putting local authorities in a position where they had to sell those fields simply to pay for essential repairs. Our record levels of capital investment in schools—from under £700 million in 1996-97 to more than £8 billion by 2011—have also helped bring that situation to an end. One thousand one hundred completely new schools have already been built—with brand new sports facilities and outdoor play areas. Another 2,450 schools have made massive improvements to sports provision, with newly built sports halls, all-weather pitches, gyms, playgrounds or changing rooms.

This Government legislated to ensure that school playing fields are sold only where they are genuinely surplus to local needs, including those of neighbouring schools. This Government have ensured that the proceeds of sales are invested mainly in providing new sports facilities, including new grassed pitches, all-weather pitches and sports halls. Where no sports improvements are needed, the money from sales must be used to improve educational facilities.

The attached table shows details of the 19 applications which were approved on this basis in 2007.



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Approved applications to sell an area of land capable of being used as a small sports pitch of 2,000m2 in 2007
SchoolLocal AuthorityApprovedDetails

Beanfield Community College

Northamptonshire

17 May

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at other schools.

All-weather hockey and tennis pitch.

Floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games court.

Four-court sports hall.

Blackdale Middle School

Norfolk

2 November

Closed school proceeds used to improve outdoor sports at four other schools.

Two multi-use games courts.

One new grass pitch.

One new playing field.

One tennis court.

New outdoor cricket facilities.

Cliftonville Middle School

Northamptonshire

8 May 07

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at 8 other local schools.

New all-weather, multi-use games courts.

New grass pitches.

Upgraded gymnasium facilities.

Deedmore School

Coventry

20 April

Closed school—proceeds spent on new school.

New hydrotherapy pool.

New outdoor classrooms.

New sensory garden.

New all-weather pitch.

Eastwood Comprehensive

Nottinghamshire

24 May

Sale of part of playing field at closed lower site—proceeds used to improve sports provision on upper site and other local schools.

Improved outdoor facilities and indoor sports facilities at upper school site.

New sports pitch.

Green Lanes Primary

Solihull

12 March

Closed school—proceeds spent on sports at other schools.

Grading and levelling of grass pitches.

Improved grassed pitch.

New hard play area.

New sports hall.

Harefield Primary

Southampton

13 December

Surplus playing field sold to fund sports hall.

New sports hall.

New hard games court.

Hayesfield School and Technology College

Bath and NE Somerset

12 March

Off-site playing field sold to fund new on-site sports provision.

New sports hall.

New dance studio.

New all-weather pitch.

New running track.

New netball and tennis court.

Highbury Primary

Wiltshire

16 May

New build—surplus playing field sold to fund new sports facilities.

New hard play area.

New games court.

New sports hall.

Leigh C of E Primary

Wiltshire

5 April

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at other schools.

New hard play area.

New sports hall.

Meadway School

Reading

4 April

Closed school—proceeds used for sports facilities at new SEN school.

New grass pitch.

New game court.

New outdoor play space.

New sports hall.

Therapy and hydrotherapy pool.

Pembroke Primary School

Wiltshire

8 May

First school site sold. Proceeds used to fund sports facilities at new primary schools.

New external play area.

Improved sports hall.

New reception playground.

Refurbished playground.

New netball court.

New sports hall.

Portland School

Nottinghamshire

8 January

Surplus playing field sold to fund new on-site sports facilities.

New all-weather pitch.

New multi-use games court.

Improved running track.

New sports hall.

Improved grassed pitches.

Senacre Technology College

Kent

4 September

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports facilities at two new academies.

New multi-use games court.

Improved grassed sports pitch.

Two new gymnasiums.

Sir Bernard Lovell

South Gloucestershire

30 January

Sale of part of detached playing field to fund new on-site sports facilities.

Two improved grass pitches.

Two floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games courts.

Two six-court sports halls.

St Michaels C of E Controlled School

Wiltshire

8 May

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports and education at other schools.

New hard games court.

New soft games area.

Two classroom extensions.

St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary

Surrey

17 May

Sale of part of detached playing field to fund on-site sports facilities.

New all-weather games court.

Improved grassed pitches.

Refurbishment of two sports halls.

Tyning Hengrove Junior School

Bristol

8 May

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports at other schools.

Purchase new school playing fields.

All-weather, multi-use games court.

New sports hall.

Warblington School

Hampshire

20 November

Sale of surplus playing field to fund new sports facilities.

Floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games court.

Refurbished school tennis courts.

New sports hall.


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