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Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for North Devon of 18 March 2008, Official Report, columns 84-6WS, on Education (Student Support) Regulations, how much in (a) student loans and (b) maintenance grants was paid to prisoners undertaking full-time higher education courses in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and how much has been repaid to the Student Loans Company by such prisoners since it was established. 
Bill Rammell: In his written statement on 7 February 2008, Official Report, columns 85-86WS, on the Education (Student Support) Regulations, the Secretary of State announced that he was amending the student support regulations to disallow prisoners who were also full-time students from receiving financial support for maintenance, thereby removing the long-standing provision which had allowed prisoners to claim such support. In a further written statement on 25 March 208, Official Report, column 6WS, he announced that an investigation showed that 154 individual prisoners had received some form of maintenance payment while a full time student since 1998. In total, prisoners received £570,000 in maintenance loans and £160,000 in maintenance grants over that period. The investigation also showed that assessments for student support were carried out in accordance with the rules that applied at the time. There was also evidence of some maintenance payments made to prisoners between 1990 and 1998.
The following table shows the amounts in maintenance loans and maintenance grants paid to prisoners undertaking full-time higher education courses in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available.
|(1) Student Loans consist of pre-1998 mortgage-style loans; income contingent loans introduced in 1998 and transitional loans (1998/99).|
(2) Maintenance grants consist of the former Higher Education grant in 2004/05 and 2005/06 and maintenance grant from 2006/07.
Repayment of student loans by prisoners is the same as for other borrowers. For income contingent loans, borrowers start to repay in the April after they graduate or withdraw from their course. Repayment is linked to income and repayable through the PAYE or Self Assessment Tax system and is at 9 per cent. on earnings above £15,000 a year. Interest paid is linked to the rate of inflation, so in real terms what is paid back is equivalent to what was borrowed. The repayments to the Student Loans Company by these borrowers and posted to their accounts as at 19 March, 2008 is shown in the table as follows.
|Loan type||Amount repaid (£)|
The figures do not include payments that have been made but not yet credited to Borrowers accounts. Prisoners will typically take longer to start repayments than other students. For example, some prisoners will complete their course several years before release; and there will therefore be a longer period between prisoners finishing their studies and starting work and earning above the annual threshold.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many and what proportion of undergraduate part-time students in England are studying between 30 and 49 per cent. of a full-time course. 
Bill Rammell: In academic year 2006/07 there were 33,400 English domiciled part-time undergraduates studying in the UK at between 30 per cent. and 49 per cent. of an equivalent full-time course. This represents 7 per cent. of part-time undergraduate students.
Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of the foundation learning tier under the (a) adult learner response strand and (b) employer response strand has been allocated to (i) 14 to 19 year olds and (ii) 19 and over in (A) 2008-09, (B) 2009-10 and (C) 2010-11. 
Mr. Lammy: The joint grant letter to the Learning and Skills Council from this Department and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (November, 2007) set out the Government's funding strategy for learning and skills over the comprehensive spending review period (2008-09 to 2010-11).
All planned expenditure for the foundation learning tier (FLT) through the adult learner responsive and employer responsive model relates to adults aged 19 and over. This is set out in the following table in line with Annex B to the grant letter.
|Planned expenditure for foundation learning tier 2008-09 to 2010-11|
Planned expenditure for 14-19 year olds is based on the expected route of learning such as schools, further education and work-based learning rather than level of learning. The LSC statement of priorities presents these figures for 16-18 year olds only as 14-16 year olds are funded by local authorities.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it her policy to ensure that local authorities apply business rates to phone masts at a single uniform rate. 
John Healey: Authorities have no discretion over the level of business rates they apply to phone masts in their areas. Legislation requires this to be charged at a uniform rate on the rateable value of the hereditament incurred, subject to any other reliefs, which are also determined by legislation.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent guidance her Department has issued to local authorities on the provision of allotments; and what role her Department has in such provision. 
Mr. Iain Wright: A revised good practice guide, Growing in the Community, was published by the Local Government Association in March 2008, and includes a section on allotment provision. A free copy was sent to all local authorities.
The provision of allotments is the responsibility of local authorities. Section 23 of the Small Holdings and
Allotments Act 1908 places a duty on local authorities (except for inner London boroughs) to provide allotments where they perceive a demand for them in their area. Furthermore, Planning Policy Guidance Note 17: Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation, 2002 requires local authorities to make provision for all types of open space and requires them to undertake robust assessments of local needs and audits of existing open space, to establish standards for new provision. By implementing the guidance in PPG17, local authorities should make adequate provision for allotments.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans she has for the training and development of finance staff in her Departments headquarters under the Finance Professionalism agenda; and whether those proposals have been (a) equality-proofed under Civil Service equality provisions and (b) subject to an equality impact assessment; 
(3) how many staff within the finance team in her Departments headquarters have been promoted in the last 12 months otherwise than under the provisions of the Finance Professionalism agenda; 
(4) whether her Departments trade union side or the relevant recognised trade unions was consulted on the Finance Professionalism agenda before it was announced to staff; and whether the trade union side or the relevant recognised trade unions has written to her Department seeking consultation on the Finance Professionalism agenda. 
Delivering world class standards of financial management in Government requires the cost effective translation of resources into desired outcomes. This means having the right decision making structures in place, and the financial information and skills capacities to operate them.
In seeking to deliver world class standards of financial management the Treasury aims to:-
Promote improvements in the effectiveness of financial management and finance professionalism in Government.
Implement reporting frameworks that build on best practice and deliver efficient and effective integrated reporting mechanisms for Government financial data.
Promote excellent accountability in the use of public funds through setting standards of governance, risk management and internal control.
Delivery of the Finance Professionalism agenda in each Government Department is the responsibility of the Head of Finance Professionalism. They operate within the framework and accountabilities established by Dame Mary Keegan within the auspices of the Government Finance Profession.
The accountabilities include training and development of finance staff. Communities and Local Government (CLG) participate in the Big 7 group of Heads of Finance Professionalism in sharing best practice and developing the professionalism agenda.
In September 2007, CLG launched its current training and development programme for finance staff. At present, this is focused on London-based staff and has not yet been rolled out to the Government offices and the shared service centre. The main strands of the training and development programme are:
Continuous professional development activities and events for qualified and part qualified staff.
Bite sized learning events on both finance and other Professional Skills for Government (PSG) topics that are relevant to CLG for all finance staff.
Professional training courses for a CCAB qualification delivered by Englands leading providers and open to all finance staff.
Development of a set of finance competencies, based on best practice, against which finance staff can benchmark themselves.
There is no limitation on any finance staff attending training and development events.
There is no funding limitation or restrictions in finance staff taking up professional training.
The training providers have a range of courses, including day release; evening study; weekend study and distance learning to fully meet flexible working requirements. There are no restrictions on which course finance staff select and there are generous study leave arrangements.
The training providers operate from a number of localities to meet the needs of finance staff.
The finance training manager provides open support and is available to assist with any individual difficulties.
The training and development programme also covers non-finance staff and provides for accessibility and support for finance Professional Skills for Government through the National School of Government Finance Love Learning portal.
There are approximately 135 finance staff based in central London. Since the launch of the current finance professionalism scheme in September, there have been six promotions internally on successful completion of accountancy examinations. Three finance staff have been promoted on transfer to other Government Departments, including one to the senior civil service. In addition, three members of the CLG fast stream have joined the Government Finance Profession (GFP) fast stream.
Prior to the new scheme, only one member of staff had been promoted in the preceding five months from 1 April 2007. This promotion was of a member of staff who had worked independently to pass accountancy qualifications.
On 28 January 2008, the PCS union wrote to the Head of Finance Professionalism in relation to the finance competency framework that had been issued to support finance staff unable to take finance qualifications. On 29 January, the Head of Finance Professionalism wrote to the PCS to answer the questions that they had raised and offered to meet the PCS to discuss any concerns. There have been regular communications to staff.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it a requirement for local authorities to check households appearing in the electoral register against the council tax database to ensure that two-into-one property conversions are properly assessed for council tax; and if she will make a statement. 
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