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Parish Councillors

Mr. Burns: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many parish councillors there are in the West Chelmsford parliamentary constituency; and how many have notified his Department that they have resigned from their parish councils as a result of the introduction of a code of conduct for parish councillors. [77152]

Mr. Raynsford: The information requested is not held centrally. Nine parish councillors from four parish councils in Essex have told the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or the Standards Board for England of their intention to resign.


10. Mr Cameron: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he currently expects to implement proposals in the planning green paper about public consultation; and if he will make a statement. [77870]

Mr. McNulty: The Government is developing its plans for implementing the planning reforms including in public consultation, which were set out in the policy paper Sustainable Communities—Delivering through Planning. Some of those plans require primary legislation and we will be seeking to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Mole: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to streamline the procedure governing planning enforcement appeals. [79203]

Mr. McNulty: My right hon. Friend will tomorrow lay before Parliament five statutory instruments to improve the handling of planning enforcement appeals

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under each of the three main procedures: written representations, hearings and inquiries. These are the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement Notices and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2002; the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement Appeals) (Written Representations Procedure) (England) Regulations 2002; the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement) (Hearings Procedure) (England) Rules 2002; the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement) (Inquiries Procedure) (England) Rules 2002; and the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement) (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedure) (England) Rules 2002.

A departmental circular (ODPM 02–2002), XEnforcement Appeals: Procedures", which explains the new procedures, is to be issued to accompany the new statutory instruments. Copies are to be placed in the House Libraries. The changes implement the conclusions of a consultation exercise announced in August 2000.

The new arrangements, due to come into operation on 23 December 2002, implement the Government's commitment to improve the Planning Inspectorate's service to its customers, and to increase the efficiency of the enforcement appeals process by reducing both the cost and time taken. In introducing these changes, the Government recognise that it is vital to maintain a system which ensures that there is fair and open decision-making and that all parties have the opportunity to put their case, resulting in decisions that are legally sound and of the highest possible quality.

We have already set tough targets for the Planning Inspectorate to turn round enforcement appeals more quickly, and they have made a good deal of progress in improving their own performance. However, improving service to the benefit of all concerned is not just the responsibility of the Planning Inspectorate. All parties to the enforcement appeal process have a responsibility to meet the deadlines set and to co- operate with the inspectorate in agreeing dates offered for hearings and inquiries. The new procedures will put in place a regime of discipline for all parties involved in the process by setting clear timetables and deadlines for the various stages. In future, representations sent after due dates will normally be disregarded. We intend to monitor the impact of the changes, and will review their effectiveness to help us decide whether any further action is needed.

Post Offices

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to protect post offices in areas of urban deprivation. [76424]

Mrs. Roche: The Government announced their commitment to set up Xa #15 million fund to sustain and improve post offices and associated retail facilities in deprived urban areas" in the 'Urban White Paper', which was published in November 2000.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is seeking to launch the scheme in the autumn of 2002, with receipt of first applications early in 2003.

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The proposed scheme will seek to contribute to the regeneration and renewal of urban deprived areas through sustaining and improving sub-post offices. Where sub-post offices face risk of closure, it is expected to support:

Public Sector Contracts

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) when he plans to publish the code of practice covering the recruitment of new staff on public sector contracts; [77955]

Mr. Leslie: The Government recently consulted on a code of practice and new statutory guidance which will ensure that all local authority service contracting takes proper account of the need for a high quality workforce in order to deliver high quality services. The consultation period ended on 6 September; we are currently considering the responses, with the aim of publishing the code and guidance shortly.

Public Spaces

Brian White: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will publish his report on public spaces; and when he will respond to the report of the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce. [78710]

Mr. Prescott : I am today publishing "Living Places—Cleaner, Safer, Greener", the Government's report on public space at the Urban Summit. The report draws upon the work of six government departments. The report also includes the Government's response to the report of the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce. Copies of the report have been placed in the library of the House.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will introduce financial incentives and penalties to encourage achievement of regional targets for renewable energy; and if he will make a statement. [78143]

Mr. McNulty: These targets are regionally owned. Advice on achieving them in the context of land use planning will be included in the proposed Planning Policy Statement 22 (renewable energy), on which we will consult fully. We are examining more generally the role of local and regional bodies in delivering energy policy objectives as part of the on-going work for the Energy White Paper, which is due to be published in the new year.

Westminster City Council

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, (1) how the costs on the District Auditor's Office inquiry

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into the sale of dwellings by Westminster Council will be distributed; how much other local authorities will be charged to cover the costs; and if he will make a statement. [76860]

Mr. McNulty: The auditor's investigation leading to his decision in 1996 that six individuals had caused a loss, through wilful misconduct, of some 31million to Westminster City Council, and to issue surcharge certificates against those individuals, cost approximately 3 million. Those costs were met by Westminster City Council.

The auditor's costs in the subsequent litigation (during which the Divisional Court set aside the auditor's surcharge in respect of four of the six individuals) leading to the decision of the House of Lords in December 2001, to uphold the surcharge against Dame Shirley Porter and David Weeks, were met by the Audit Commission. The total of the auditor's litigation costs to this point was around 4.5million. Westminster City Council is currently taking legal action to recover the amount of the surcharge and costs. The final costs of the investigation and litigation will not be known until the outcome of those proceedings.

Starter Home Initiative

Tim Loughton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much each local authority will receive from the #200 million Challenge Fund as part of the Starter Home Initiative. [78198]

Mr. McNulty: The Challenge Fund (which is not part of the Starter Home Initiative) has been set up within the Housing Corporation's Approved Development Programme in 2003–04 to provide 4,000 homes for rent and low cost home ownership in south-east England. Bids for the Challenge Fund were invited from registered social landlords by 18 October. Dependent upon the bids received, a proportion of the homes will be for key public sector workers. We hope to announce the outcome of the bidding process in November.

Public Relations

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list external (a) public relations/communications companies, (b) advertising and marketing companies, (c) management consultancies, (d) accountancy companies, (e) banking firms, (f) individual consultants and (g) other specialist consultancies used by his Department since June 2001; what actions those consultancies/companies have performed within his Department; and what costs have been incurred through use of these consultancies/companies. [74689]

Mr. Leslie: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley to the hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden on 28 October, Official Report, column 735–36W.

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