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Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to relieve people of paying council tax when in hospital; and if he will make a statement. 
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Dr. Whitehead: A person is required to pay council tax on their sole or main residence. When a person enters hospital for treatment on a short term basis, their sole or main residence remains the property where they resided prior to entering hospital. Where a person enters hospital on a long-term basis and there is no intention of their returning to their original residence, the hospital becomes in effect their main residence and their home is exempt from the council tax. We have no plans to change this.
Dr. Whitehead: The table shows the amount of business rates that each London borough (and the City) estimates that it will collect in 200203 compared with estimates made at the corresponding time last year for 200102.
|Net business rate yield for 200202(1)(£ million)||Net business rate yield for 200203(1) (£ million)||Change in net business rate yield between 200102 and 200203(2) (£ million)||Change in net business rate yield between 200102 and 200203 (Percentage)|
|City of London||471.7||531.3||59.6||12.6|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||84.5||96.8||12.4||14.6|
|Kensington and Chelsea||130.6||140.4||9.7||7.4|
|Total for Inner London||2,230.3||2,448.6||218.2||9.8|
|Barking and Dagenham||43.5||41.7||-1.8||-4.0|
|Total for Outer London||1,322.0||1,355.5||33.5||2.5|
(1) Net of transitional, mandatory and discretionary rate reliefs.
(2) The business rate multiplier increased from 43.0p in 200102 to 43.7p in 200203. This increase was in line with changes in Retail Price Index, as required by legislation.
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Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list for each of the last five years the SSA settlements for all local authorities and the percentage change from the previous year, showing those authorities with the highest percentage increase year on year and those with the lowest increases. 
Dr. Whitehead: Tables showing the SSA settlements for all local authorities, together with the percentage changes against the SSA figures for the previous year, adjusted for changes in the functions and funding of authorities, where appropriate, for 199899, 19992000, 200001, 200102 and 200203 have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what contingency plans have been made for the conduct of all-postal ballots in the 2002 local elections in the event of industrial action disrupting the postal service. 
Dr. Whitehead: Councils have been in close contact with their local postal service representatives about the postal voting arrangements for the local elections. It is understood that no official industrial action is planned for the period of the elections. In the event of disruption to the postal service, Consignia is prepared to give priority to the delivery of voting material. Councils also have a range of contingency measures in place. These can include the use of commercial postal delivery firms and hand delivery arrangements. They can also set up ballot paper collection points and allow collection and delivery at council offices.
Ms Keeble: I hope to be able to publish this shortly. As I indicated to last year's Transport, Local Government and the Regions Select Committee, this will not be before the publication of report of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what priority he intends to give to reducing the number of empty homes in his guidance to local authorities under the Homelessness Act 2002. 
Ms Keeble: As I said on 12 July 2001 at the first sitting of the Homelessness Bill in the Commons, the statutory guidance on the homelessness provisions in the Homelessness Act 2002 will urge local housing authorities to include a review of empty properties within their district as part of the homelessness review that will inform their homelessness strategy.
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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what assessment was made of congestion levels in each region when determining house-building targets; and what influence this had on the final targets; 
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what new money has been made available to help combat homelessness following the publication of the report 'More than a roof'. 
Mr. Byers: The DTLR has allocated £125 million to the Homelessness Directorate for 200203 to tackle homelessness. This is made up of the Rough Sleepers Unit existing baseline of £30 million, the remainder being found from DTLR's End Year Flexibility and savings on other existing budgets.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 25 March 2002, Official Report, column 667W, what assessment he has made of the factors underlying the change in the numbers of successful cash incentive scheme grant applications by local authority tenants between 199798 and 200001. 
Ms Keeble: We have not conducted a detailed assessment of the change in the number of successful applications. However, there was a significant reduction when separate ring-fenced funding was phased out in 19992000 (even though total housing capital funding was increased substantially). At that stage a number of authorities cut back or discontinued the scheme.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent guidance his Department has issued to local authorities on (a) establishing a cash incentive scheme and (b) the types and size of local authority property that should be prioritised for release under the cash incentive scheme. 
Ms Keeble: Guidance on the operation of cash incentive schemes is issued by the Department from time to time, most recently in February 2000. Decisions about targeting the scheme on particular types and sizes of properties are for authorities to take, in the light of local circumstances.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what the maximum grants available are for housing association tenants of (a) bedsits, (b) one-bedroom properties, (c) two-bedroom properties, (d) three-bedroom properties, (e) four-bedroom properties and (f) properties with five or more bedrooms under the Tenants Incentive scheme; 
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(3) what the maximum discounts available are for housing association tenants of (a) bedsits, (b) one- bedroom properties, (c) two-bedroom properties, (d) three-bedroom properties, (e) four-bedroom properties and (f) properties with five or more bedrooms under the Right to Acquire scheme. 
Ms Keeble: The Right to Acquire scheme gives eligible tenants of registered social landlords the right to purchase their rented home with the help of a discount. The discount generally varies from £9,000 up to a maximum of £16,000, irrespective of the size of the property, and depends on the local authority area in which the dwelling is situated.
The Tenants Incentive Scheme was discontinued on 31 March 1998. It provided a cash payment, equivalent to the right to acquire discount, funded by the Housing Corporation to help existing tenants vacate their housing association property and purchase their own home.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 26 March, Official Report, column 978W, on housing, if he will place in the Library copies of the research programmes that have been carried out into the cash incentive scheme. 
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 25 March 2002, Official Report, column 668W, on right to buy, if he will make an assessment of the impact of increasing the maximum cash incentive scheme grant available in London to a level (a) equal to the maximum right to buy discount available in London and (b) 25 per cent. higher than the maximum right to buy discount in London. 
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 22 March 2002, Official Report, column 357W, if he will publish his assessment of Birmingham city council's application for a place on the housing transfer programme. 
Ms Keeble: The assessment of Birmingham city council's application for a place on the housing transfer programme is internal advice to the Secretary of State and as such it would be inappropriate to make it publicly available.
Mr. Rammell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the average weekly rent level is for (a) housing association and (b) local housing company tenants in those local authority areas where housing has been transferred from the council under large-scale voluntary transfer. 
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Ms Keeble: In answer to part (a), the average weekly rent levels for housing association tenants in local authorities where all housing had been transferred from the council as at 31 March 2001 were as shown in the following table:
|Local authority||Average weekly rent|
|Basingstoke and Deane||63.09|
|Bath and North East Somerset||45.38|
|Blackburn with Darwen||50.51|
|Epsom and Ewell||58.71|
|Isle of Wight||62.56|
|Richmond upon Thames||64.44|
|Telford and Wrekin||48.16|
|Tonbridge and Malling||58.79|
|Vale of White Horse||52.19|
|Weymouth and Portland||48.65|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||68.03|
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|Local authority||Average weekly rent|
It should further be noted that since 31 March 2001, full transfer of council stock to housing associations has taken place in Erewash, Reigate and Banstead, East Hertfordshire, Chelmsford, Derbyshire Dales, Shrewsbury and Atcham and the rest of Mid-Bedfordshire.
In response to part (b), the term "local housing company tenants" has been interpreted as meaning the new "arms-length management companies". These have only recently been established and information on rent levels is not yet available.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what information his Department has collated on those local authorities in London who add an additional premium to the cash incentive scheme grant to those tenants who purchase a property on the open market within the same borough. 
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