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The policies adopt the independent panel's conclusion that the number of pitches in the region should be slightly increased from the total proposed in the draft policy, in recognition of the pressing need for additional accommodation in the East of England. They also reflect the panel's conclusions that the revision should make provision for additional transit sites for temporary use by Gypsies and Travellers and more permanent plots for seasonal use by travelling showpeople. The spatial strategy reflected in the policies provides for meeting the most pressing accommodation needs where

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they arise coupled with an equitable distribution of additional pitch and plot requirements across the region's local authority areas.

The policies were subject to assessment under the habitats regulations. The sustainability statement concludes that the policies are in accordance with the principles of sustainable development and that they do not give rise to adverse environmental impacts.

The culmination of this single-issue review of the East of England plan represents an important milestone in putting in place a strategic framework for addressing the pressing accommodation needs of the Gypsy and Traveller and travelling showpeople communities. The essential task now is to ensure that the policies are implemented quickly and effectively. We look forward to working with the local authorities and other key partners on their delivery.

The policies resulting from the review, together with the supporting document, have been placed in the Library of the House and have been provided for all of the region's MPs, MEPs and local authorities.

Serious Organised Crime Agency


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction (Alan Campbell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to be able to provide a schedule of costs, which has been prepared exceptionally for 2008-09, following the merger of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) on 1 April 2008.

The figures in the schedule show the sum of assets recovered by SOCA in 2008-09 to be in the region of £3.9 million more than the cost of their recovery

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activities using the powers inherited from ARA. SOCA is tasked with reducing the harm caused to the UK by organised crime, and numbers alone do not tell the full story, but in the first year of SOCA's use of these new powers it exceeded the Government's target for civil recovery on its own. The Government believe that SOCA's performance in this area of activity fully vindicates their decision to merge both agencies.

The figures provide, as far as it is possible to do, an assessment of the costs incurred by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in recovering assets using powers inherited from ARA during the first year following the merger. Assessing the costs associated to a single work stream within SOCA has proved challenging and significantly more complex than the calculations that could be made for ARA, which was focused on a single area of activity. Given that former ARA work is now only part of a larger organisation with much wider aims and objectives and significantly larger and more varied overhead costs, a like-for-like comparison is difficult.

SOCA's remit is to reduce the harm caused to the UK by serious organised crime. To achieve this SOCA deploys a range of tools. These include: criminal justice interventions (arrests and prosecutions); action to deny criminals access to assets through the use of proceeds of crime legislation and other measures; the disruption of criminal markets and organisations; and the use of ancillary orders such as Serious Crime Prevention Orders. The use of these tools is mainstreamed into the operational activity of the agency. Most operations deploy a number of these tools. It is not possible to identify, in a manner which could be audited, the costs associated with the use of specific tools within any given operation. The identification of costs for powers inherited from ARA is less problematic as civil recovery operations were run as a discrete area of the business in 08-09.

The receipts from SOCA's asset recovery work are not intended to cover the operating costs of SOCA as a whole.

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Summary Analysis of ARA/SOCA Expenditure on Asset Recovery-2003-04 to 2008-09
ARA ActualARA ActualARA ActualARA ActualARA ActualActuals


Total Reported ARA Expenditure









Centre of Excellence Direct Costs







Overheads on C of E Costs (2)







SOCA Costs


Direct Costs



Other Including Receivership Fees



Overhead Recharges (Notes 3 & 4)



= Cost of Asset Recovery Activities








Adj for Change of VAT Status (Note 5)



Comparable Annual Cost Levels








Cash Value of Assets Recovered








Net Cost (Surplus) In Year








Cumulative Cost (Surplus)







Social Care


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) is the professional regulatory body for social workers in England and has statutory responsibility for investigating complaints against social workers. In June, the Department of Health became aware that a backlog of conduct referrals had developed at the GSCC and liaised with GSCC to determine the scope and nature of the problem.

On 2 July, Ministers were alerted as the GSCC had identified a backlog in the management of 203 complaints against social workers registered with them. Ministers were very concerned about any risk to the public and met with the chair and chief executive of the GSCC on 6 July to seek reassurances from them. The council reported that there were 21 cases where the allegations, though unproven, suggested that there could have been an ongoing risk of harm to members of the public.

Ministers asked the council to ensure that urgent action was taken to address any potential threat to public safety that could arise if these individuals were continuing to work as social workers, by establishing their whereabouts, to ensure that any who were still in employment were being safely and appropriately managed while the allegations were investigated. GSCC has been working to ensure that any employers of these individuals are aware of the allegations made and to ensure that the individuals concerned have not sought employment elsewhere.

On Friday 17 July, the department received information from the GSCC regarding all 21 cases. The GSCC confirmed that either the individuals concerned are employed as social workers by known employers who are aware of the allegations that have been made and are managing any risks or, as far as the council can ascertain, they are not currently employed as social workers.

In the light of Ministers' concerns around public safety, my officials facilitated a team to work with GSCC to ensure that all cases in the backlog were reviewed to determine if any were high risk. Following this review, a small number of other cases have been identified which are being investigated. Ministers are seeking urgent further assurances that every possible step has now been taken to ensure that none of these individuals presents a current risk.

In all cases where the GSCC has assessed that there may be a potential ongoing risk, panels are scheduled to have met by Friday 24 July to consider the imposition of an interim suspension order on the individual in question pending the outcome of the GSCC's investigations.

The fact that a backlog of conduct referrals, some of which had not been adequately risk assessed, has built up is a matter of extreme concern. We understand that GSCC has therefore suspended its chief executive while it looks into how the issue arose.

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As an interim measure, Paul Philip, currently deputy chief executive at the General Medical Council, is joining GSCC as acting chief executive.

The Department of Health is today commissioning the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence to carry out a wide-ranging review of the governance and performance of the GSCC. The purpose of the review is to establish what further action is needed to ensure that Ministers, Parliament and the public can have confidence that the GSCC is effectively carrying out its statutory duties to promote high standards of conduct and practice in order to protect the public. The GSCC supports the review, which will report to Ministers by the end of September.

Tax Credits


The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Tax credits are delivering guaranteed minimum incomes for working families and families with children, reducing child poverty, and improving work incentives. In these tough economic times they provide support to 20 million people including around 6 million families and 10 million children. Take-up is now higher than for any previous system of income-related financial support for in-work families.

Against this backdrop HMRC has today published its estimate of error and fraud in tax credits for 2007-08. The collection, analysis and publication of these data help inform efforts to strengthen the administration of the programme.

The analysis-based on a sample of 4,100 cases-estimates error and fraud at 8.6 per cent of finalised tax credit entitlements for 2007-08. This comprises error favouring the claimant at 7.8 per cent of finalised entitlements, and fraud at 0.7 per cent. This compares with the 2006-7 central estimate of error and fraud at 7.8 per cent.

The Government are determined to reduce the incidence of error and fraud in tax credits. In July of last year, the Government set HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) a target to reduce the combined levels of error and fraud in tax credits to no more than 5 per cent of finalised entitlement by the end of March 2011. HMRC is committed to delivering to achieve this target.

At the same time HMRC also published a new strategy for reducing error and fraud. By using the department's improved understanding of risks and of customer needs, it has already introduced additional checks and interventions tailored to help prevent error entering the system while ensuring those who abuse the system are caught. HMRC has also been embedding this deeper understanding of customer behaviour into its entire compliance programme, deploying resources to areas of greatest risk.

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