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These regulations, made under Part 1 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, make transitional, supplementary and consequential provision in relation to finance, including in particular the following matters:the setting and approval of budgets and the process of billing for council tax and non-domestic rates for each unitary councils first financial year;enabling the equalisation of council tax in restructuring areas to occur over a period of more than one year but at the latest in the financial year after the fifth anniversary of the reorganisation to provide where necessary for a more equitable process of equalisation. If these transitional provisions are not used, council tax equalisation will occur in the first financial year;providing that existing local rating lists and valuation lists for a reorganising area will be the lists of the new councils on and after the reorganisation date, and providing for the amalgamation of these lists into a single document at any time after the reorganisation date; andensuring that after a reorganisation, the new unitary council has continuity and responsibility for finance functions relating to earlier financial years.
I am confident that these regulations will ensure that the new unitary councils will have the powers that they need to set their budget and council tax for 2009-10 and to bill and collect both their council tax and non-domestic rates for that year. They will also ensure that the new councils are able to fulfil their responsibilities, including enforcement activity, relating to earlier financial years.
No one underestimates the scale of the task that those leading the changes in these areas face over the coming months. A key measure of success for the new unitary councils will be that, from the outset, their council tax is affordable and that they adopt a budget that both reflects the savings proposed in their original unitary bid and delivers efficient and quality local services. The framework that the regulations put in place will enable them to do this.
I announced on 9 April 2008 the consultation on a best-value regime for probation services and I am pleased to announce to the House the outcome of that consultation. I propose, following the consultation, to introduce a new best-value framework as signalled during the passage of the Offender Management Bill last year.
The National Offender Management Service Agency will require local probation boards and trusts to undertake a rolling programme of best-value reviews. The proposed framework will apply to probation boards and trusts with the exception of areas reserved to probation trusts in the Offender Management Act 2007. It will 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. Having considered the options, I have decided that best value will proceed on the basis of benchmarking of selected areas of work, assessment of probation performance against that benchmark and greater competition for all sectors for those who do not meet the required standard through improvements to existing services.
The Government are currently developing a regulatory framework to ensure that competition is conducted in a fair and transparent way, allowing all sectors to compete. Discussions are currently ongoing with interested parties and will be published in due course.
Copies of the best-value consultation response 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/cp0608.htm.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): During the passage of the Pensions Bill through both Houses, there has been much debate on the Governments view on responsible investment and disinvestment by pension schemes. This is clearly an issue of some importance, particularly to trustees, and is one that is continually developing as the body of case law on responsible investment evolves.
It would be inappropriate for the Government to comment on the future development of the existing principles contained in case law, as the interpretation of case law is of course a matter for the courts and not for Ministers.
However, I would like to put on record the Governments view of the law. There is no reason in law why, in making investment decisions, trustees cannot consider social, ethical and environmental considerations, including sustainability, in addition to their usual criteria of financial returns, security and diversification.
It follows from this that it may be appropriate for trustees to engage in these considerations with companies in which they invest. This may include disinvesting from such companies if, acting in accordance with their fiduciary duties and the objects of their trust, they consider that this is right and in the best interests of their members.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have today placed in the Library our proposals for allocation of police grant for England and Wales for 2009-10, with indicative allocations for 2010-11. I intend to implement the proposals on police grant subject to consideration of any representations and to the approval of the House.
The Government announced last year provisional funding totals for the three-year period 2008-09 to 2010-11. Three-year settlements were widely welcomed by police authorities, enabling them to develop medium-term financial strategies and to control their spending. The recent multiyear pay deal for the police will help to improve further still their medium-term planning. We intend to implement the settlement for 2009-10 broadly unchanged from last years announcement.
The funding settlement for next year is built on considerable investment in the police service since 1997-98. On a like-for-like basis, government grant for the police will have increased by over 60 per cent or over £3.7 billion between 1997-98 and 2010-11. This has helped to expand local policing considerably. Police officer numbers at the end of March this year remain historically high at 140,230 (14,405 more than in 1997). The police workforce overall, including officers, support staff and community support officers, has increased by 27.5 per cent (50,246) since 1997 to 233,263 in March 2008, a record number. The workforce increased by 3,166 (1.4 per cent) between March 2007 and March 2008.
The police reform programme continues. The policing Green Paper From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together was published on 17 July. It set out the Governments vision for the future of policing and put forward proposals to empower citizens, professionalise and free the police from unnecessary bureaucracy and sharpen the strategic role of government. Over 300 formal responses to consultation were received. Home Office Ministers and officials have met over 1,000 people to share views and prompt debate. We are considering the many views that were put forward and will produce a public response to the consultation shortlysetting out the Governments position and plans for implementation.
We have made good progress to date in implementing Sir Ronnie Flanagans recommendations on reducing bureaucracy. We are also developing the new, single national target on confidence. This target is to increase public confidence that agencies are tackling local crime and anti-social behaviour priorities.
Neighbourhood policing is continuing to transform police forces relationships with their communities through closer engagement with local people, joint problem solving and working together to make changes for the longer term to make communities safer. Every community in England and Wales now has a dedicated neighbourhood policing team aiming to identify and tackle the key policing priorities identified by local people. The next phase of neighbourhood policing will concentrate on integrating with other local authority services at a neighbourhood level. Neighbourhood crime and justice co-ordinators will help to ensure that this is delivered faster and further. This next phase will also build on good practice to deliver a national pledge that guarantees the public key service standards.
The Home Office also contributes £76 million to the Safer and Stronger Communities Fund and the Young Persons Substance Misuse Partnership Grant delivered by local government. In addition, the capital element of the Safer and Stronger Communities Fund remains at £18 million. This funding will help local areas to deliver national and local improvement priorities such as those set out in local area agreements.
|Table 1: Police revenue funding settlement 2009-10 compared with 2008-09|
|2008-09 £ million||2009-10 £ million||2010-11 £ million **|
Police funding proposals within the local government finance system for England are being announced by my right honourable friend the Member for Wentworth today and those for Wales by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Provisional general policing grants (ie Home Office police grant, revenue support grant and national non-domestic rates) for English and Welsh police authorities in 2009-10 are set out at Table 2. Indicative figures for 2010-11 are given in Table 3.
Within the general grant provision of 2.7 per cent, the funding floor was set at 2.5 per cent for each of the CSR years. Each police authority in England and Wales is guaranteed an increase of at least this level. The grant floor provides for stability but at the same time a degree of grant scaling has enabled us to target resources to areas with greater relative need. Our promised review of the funding formula before the next CSR is already under way with active collaboration from the police community.
The Government are clear that there is no excuse for excessive increases in precepts on council tax next year. We will not hesitate to use capping powers to deal with excessive council tax increases in 2009-10, including requiring authorities to rebill if necessary. We took capping action against seven police authorities in 2008-09. This included designating Cheshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire police authorities for capping in advance for 2009-10. My right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government is announcing today that action is being taken forward to limit these authorities precept increases to around 3 per cent in 2009-10. The three authorities have 21 days in which to challenge our decision. Any challenges will be carefully considered before final decisions are taken.
I have again ensured that Welsh police authorities are treated in line with English police authorities. I have provided additional support of £15.5 million in 2009-10 to ensure that Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and North Wales police authorities receive at least a minimum grant increase of 2.5 per cent. Floor funding is also partly funded by reducing police grant to South Wales Police Authority, so that it too will receive the level of grant that it would if it were in England.
There are some small changes between funding for the four Welsh police authorities due to corrected data from the Welsh Assembly Government on the number of band D properties in Wales. This correction has no effect on the amount or distribution of funds for English police authorities.
Counterterrorism fundingWe will continue to invest in counterterrorism policing. As announced last year, funding for police counterterrorism will be increased from £524 million in 2008-09 to £552 million in 2009-10.
Neighbourhood policingWe will maintain the ring fence on this funding for at least the next two years to ensure that it is properly embedded. Funding will increase by an average of 2.7 per cent in each year. A total of £332 million will be made available in 2009-10.
Basic command unit fundThis will run for one final year at the same level as in 2008-09, £40 million, while plans are developed for a new community safety fund to be created from the resources in the existing BCU fund from April 2010.
Protective servicesWe made available an additional £35 million from 2008-09 to 2010-11 to support tackling serious organised crime and other protective services; £11 million a year was provided in the first two years, rising to £13 million in 2010-11, to ensure that all forces meet the national standards for capability and capacity in protective services by 2011.
Guns, gangs and knivesIn 2008-09, £6.8 million was made available to the 10 police forces in the tackling knives action programme to enable them and their partners to undertake additional activity to tackle knife crime and gang-related violence. For 2009-10, we will consider making additional specific grant available to areas where knife and gun crime is particularly prevalent or there are significant concerns over gang-related activity. This will enable the police and their partners to bear down on serious violence in our communities.
The Safer and Stronger Communities FundResource element of £61 million and the Young Peoples Substance Misuse Grant of £15 million will continue to be paid into the area-based grant for 2009-10. The Safer and Stronger Communities Fund capital element will remain at £18 million and will be paid direct to local authorities by the Home Office.
In addition to the general provision of capital grant in 2008-09, a £50 million capital fund was provided to increase the number of hand-held computers in use by front-line officers. In view of the enthusiastic response from front-line officers and the success of the programme, a further £25 million capital was announced in the policing Green Paper as part of our campaign to reduce bureaucracy, making a total of £75 million for the whole programme over the CSR years.
Improving performance and increasing efficiency remains critical. We are acutely aware that all provisions for the police must be fully justified. At local level, as we set out in the policing Green Paper, it is for police authorities to set ambitious local targets and to hold their service to account for delivery. Full weight will have to be given to the importance of driving increased efficiency and productivity across the public sector.
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