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Today's publication of the Secretary of State's proposed changes represents the commencement of a public consultation period which will close on 24 October 2008. Also being published for comment are the reports of a sustainability appraisal and a habitats regulations assessment of the proposed changes. A non-technical summary is available of these documents.
Following consideration of the responses to consultation, the Secretary of State expects to be able to publish the finalised regional spatial strategy for the
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I have written to the chairman of the regional assembly to give notice of the publication of the proposed changes and thanked the assembly and its staff for their hard work in preparing the draft revisions.
Copies will be provided for all of the region's MPs, MEPs and local authorities, and sent to all those who participated in the EiP and other interested parties and organisations required by the regulations.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will be publishing the final revision of the regional spatial strategy for the north-west of England, in late August or early September. On publication it will supersede the current RSS. Also to be published are the reports of a consolidated sustainability appraisal, a habitats regulations assessment and sustainability statement.
The published regional spatial strategy will form part of the statutory development plan for every local authority in the north-west, and set the framework for the production of local development frameworks and local transport plans. It will provide the spatial plan for the development of the region, and the policy framework for employment, housing, transport and the environment.
The current strategy, initially published as regional planning guidance, became the regional spatial strategy in September 2004 with the enactment of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. A draft revision of the regional spatial strategy was submitted to the Government in January 2006 by the North West Regional Assembly. It was subsequently tested in an examination in public between November 2006 and February 2007, and the report of the independent panel which conducted this examination was published in May 2007. The Secretary of State considered the recommendations of this independent panel, and took into account the representations made on the draft revision, and changes in government policy since the draft revision was submitted, before publishing proposed changes for further public consultation between March and May 2008.
On publication a further Statement and copies of the relevant documents will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and copies sent to the regions MPs and MEPs, members of the Opposition Front Bench and local authorities.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Pat McFadden) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In accordance with this, we require departments to produce and publish (regulatory) impact assessments for all regulatory proposals likely to have an impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies and the public sector.
The Government have now launched the impact assessment library, a central website that ensures increased transparency and accessibility to the analysis underpinning the Government's decision to regulate. The impact assessment library can be found at: www.ialibrary .berr.gov.uk.
Her Majestys Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is today publishing the outcomes of a review of HMRC office accommodation housing around 7,500 staff outside its urban centres in the south-east, east and west Midlands and north-east regions.
These decisions are the latest to emerge from a nationwide series of reviews started in 2006 and designed to create the future shape of the department. HMRC has engaged widely with trade unions, MPs, local authorities and a range of customer groups as well as with its own employees.
These have not been easy decisions. However, the overriding consideration has to be the department's need to address new and challenging customer demands by restructuring its business and estate in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Details of the decisions, impact assessments and equality impact assessments will be published on the HMRC website today and MPs will receive email confirmation of decisions relevant to their constituency along with copies of related assessments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following statement.
The report covers the work of the Independent Review Service, whose Social Fund Inspectors provide an independent means of review for applicants who are dissatisfied with the decisions made on their applications for the discretionary Social Fund.
Following the announcement the Secretary of State for Health and I made on 6 June 2008, I am today setting out further details of the Governments free swimming scheme in partnership with local government. This cross-government announcement set out a £140 million package comprising contributions from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The Government are keen to encourage as many local authorities as possible to participate in making swimming free for over-60s and under-16s in their local communities, but also to stimulate ambitious authorities to maximise and sustain uptake through other initiatives such as free lessons for adults who cannot swim, the introduction of swimming co-ordinators and to provide incentives for the most ambitious to move further towards a universal free swimming offer.
We hope this Statement will give local authorities the information they need to start planning for their budget-setting cycle and to decide the extent to which they wish to exploit the opportunities offered by the scheme to improve the health and well-being of their communities and support delivery of local priorities as set out in their respective local area agreements.
Swimming is the most popular participation activity for the over-60s, with 7 per cent taking part in swimming at least once a month. Swimming has the same health benefits as other forms of physical activity. Additionally, regular swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness and, as a low impact activity, is ideal for the elderly and those recovering from injury. The Government are keen to encourage as
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The Government will write at the start of next week to the chief executives of all local authorities in England which are responsible for leisure services to ask them to confirm, by no later than 15 September 2008, whether they wish to take up this offer. This letter will set out the resource funding the local authority will be allocated from pot 1 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 if it chooses to participate. This allocation is calculated according to a simple formula based on the size of the local over-60 population. Funding will be distributed through a specific grant, details of which will be set out in the letter to local authorities.
The qualifying criteria for the scheme are simple. Free swimming for the over-60s means that people in that age group who wish to swim at any time throughout the year when they would normally be admitted to the pool for public swimming, and in accordance with local programming, should not be charged.
Authorities who already offer free swimming that would otherwise have qualified for this funding may deploy their allocation to fund initiatives which will further increase and sustain participation for the over-60s and extend such measures to wider groups of the population.
Swimming remains a popular activity for children, with 38 per cent of 11 to 16 year-olds participating in swimming in and out of school at least once a month. The Government are keen to extend the principle of making swimming free to the under-16s. To support this, central government are making available £25 million per annum in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
All local authorities which choose to participate in pot 1 are also invited to submit, no later than 15 September 2008, an expression of interest to make swimming free for under-16s. For these authorities, details of their prospective allocation from pot 2 will be provided no later than 30 September 2008. They will then be invited to confirm, by no later than 15 October 2008, whether they wish to take up this offer. Funding will again be distributed through a specific grant.
As for the over-60s, we have made the qualifying criteria for the scheme simple. Free swimming for the under-16s means that people in that age group who wish to swim out of normal school hours throughout the year when they would normally be admitted to the pool for public swimming, and in accordance with local programming, should not be charged.
Again, local authorities which already offer free swimming that would otherwise have qualified for this funding may deploy their allocation to fund initiatives which will further increase and sustain participation for the under-16s and extend such measures to wider groups of the population.
We hope that local authorities will work creatively with local partners, including primary care trusts, to access funds from other sources such as the working neighbourhoods fund, extending activities and the Big Lottery Fund, as well as from the private sector.
To support local authorities in making swimming free for the over-60s and under-16s, we are also making available £10 million of capital funding in 2008-09 to modernise pool provision. All authorities that sign up to participate in pot 1 and pot 2 will be entitled to a one-off capital grant in 2008-09.
Local authorities have welcomed the opportunity to refurbish and modernise pool provision. Central government are also making available £25 million capital per annum in 2009-10 and 2010-11 to modernise pool provision and support more ambitious plans for free swimming.
Sport England will administer the capital challenge fund on behalf of the Government, and will publish a prospectus for bids for funding by 31 July 2008. Local authorities which have committed to pot 1 and pot 2 will be invited to submit costed plans for pot 4 by no later than 15 October 2008.
On 10 December 2007 the Government published their consultation document Limiting pre-release access to statistics. The consultation ran over 12 weeks and closed on 3 March 2008. The Government proposed to tighten the rules under which pre-release access can be granted by:reducing pre-release access to a maximum of 24 hours;reducing the number of statistics to which pre-release access is granted to a minimum; and reducing the number of people to whom pre-release access is granted to a minimum.
The Government are taking forward their proposals and will shortly lay the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 before Parliament for approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.
Copies of this report have been placed in the Libraries. The report is also available on the Cabinet Office website at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/consultations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Tomorrow I shall be announcing a package of measures to further our work on preventing violent extremism, concerned with building better connections with local places; fostering community leadership and improving theological understanding.
The launch of Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities, at Manchester Town Hall, will fulfil a public commitment that we made in our April 2007 Winning Hearts and Minds action plan to provide an update on the progress of our work and to articulate the Department for Communities and Local Governments future priorities on Prevent.
Lord Patel of Bradford undertook some work for me visiting a number of local authorities across the country and a wide range of stakeholders. We will continue to reflect on Lord Patels findings over summer 2008 alongside other review and evaluation work on Prevent being undertaken across government. We will set out our conclusions and the further action we propose to take to help develop community approaches later this year.
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