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20 Oct 2009 : Column 1396W—continued

Local Government Finance

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will place in the Library a copy of the underlying wage data (the ASHE Dataset) used as the basis of the calculation for the area cost adjustment for the most recent three years. [293537]

Barbara Follett: Information contained in the ASHE data is collected by ONS under the Statistics of Trade Act (1947), and is regarded as confidential. It is therefore not possible to make the ASHE dataset available in the Library of the House.

Local Government: Publicity

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate his Department has made of the number of local authorities which publish a weekly municipal newspaper. [293161]

Ms Rosie Winterton: My Department has made no estimate of the number of local authorities that issue publicity in the form of a weekly newsletter or freesheet.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which (a) individuals and (b) organisations responded to his Department's consultation on the Code of Conduct on Local Authority Publicity. [293162]


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Ms Rosie Winterton: I have arranged for a list of the over 300 people and organisations who responded to the consultation on the code of recommended practice on local authority publicity to be placed in the Library of the House. We intend to publish a summary of consultees’ comments by the end of the year.

Mortgages: Government Assistance

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 14 May 2009, Official Report, column 1007W, on mortgages: Government assistance, which lenders are participating in the Homeowner's Mortgage Support Scheme; how many borrowers are participating in the scheme with each lender; and how much funding has been made available in respect of each lender. [289897]

John Healey: A full list of lenders participating in the scheme is available at:

The following lenders have recently joined the scheme: Bank of Ireland (including Bristol and West and the Post Office) and Kensington Mortgages on 1 October; and Basinghall Finance on 8 October.

A maximum guaranteed amount is set for each participating lender. This is based on market share information and is commercially confidential.

The Department plans to publish information in December on the number of households who have been helped through Homeowners Mortgage Support.

Muslim Council of Britain

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what dates Ministers in his Department have met representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain in the last 12 months. [294631]

Mr. Malik: The former Communities Minister chaired a meeting of the Faith Communities Consultative Council on 11 November 2008 which was attended by a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain. My hon. Friend also held meetings with the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) Steering Group on 2 December 2008, 15 January 2009, 4 March, and 22 April 2009 which were attended by representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain. In addition my hon. Friend met representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain in a separate meeting on 2 December 2008.

The former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the former Communities Minister attended a meeting hosted by the Prime Minister on 25 November 2008 at which representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain were present.

National Housing and Planning Advice Unit

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what research projects the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit is carrying out; and if he will make a statement. [292351]


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Mr. Ian Austin: Part of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit’s remit is to commission research in support of building an evidence base to advise Government and other stakeholders on the implications of housing supply on affordability. Since its launch it has developed and delivered a focused research programme exploring specific aspects of the housing supply and affordability problem from an independent perspective, with the aim of engaging stakeholders and informing the development of housing supply policy and practice. This programme of research activity is ongoing, and the unit is currently carrying out the following projects:

National Housing and Planning Advice Unit: Pay

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much the National Housing and Planning Advice unit spent on staff costs in each of the last three years. [292485]

Mr. Ian Austin: The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit was first set up in October 2006, had a fully operational team by March 2007 and was officially launched in June 2007. It is a small team of civil servants (there are currently 13 staff in post) whose work is shaped and steered by an expert board. The unit’s remit is national, and its prime objective is to develop a strong and reliable evidence base on which to provide independent advice to Government and other stakeholders about the impact of planning proposals on affordability. In supporting this objective, it has provided comprehensive advice on housing supply numbers to be tested in the planning process, developed and delivered a focused research programme, and delivered affordability training events for stakeholders, with the aim of raising awareness of the affordability problem.

The unit spent the following on staff costs(1) in each of the last three years.


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£

October 2006 to March 2007

(1)68,490

April 2007 to March 2008

578,968

April 2008 to March 2009

606,212

April 2009 to Current(2)

330,688

(1) This amount accounts for the six-month set-up period for the unit. For the first five months of this period, the unit had only one member of staff—it’s chief executive, who was setting up the unit during this period, with other staff members joining the unit during February and March 2007. The £68,490 quoted applies therefore to only 1.42 full-time equivalent staff years. For the following years, the salary costs quoted relate to the full team (which equates to 12-13 staff years).
(2) To end of September 2009.

Non-Domestic Rates

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the value was of unpaid business rates (a) uncollected and (b) written off in each of the last five years in England. [293354]

Barbara Follett: The amount of business rates, in £ million, not collected within the year to which it relates for 2004-05 to 2008-09 is given in the following table.

£ million

2004-05

261

2005-06

269

2006-07

229

2007-08

215

2008-09

423


Collection of non-domestic rates continues after the year to which it relates has ended so the final amount not collected for the year will be lower than that shown in the table.

This information is available in Table 3 of the statistical releases Collection Rates for Council Tax and Non-domestic Rates in England that are available on the Communities and Local Government website at

Estimates of the amount of business rates (in £ million) written off each year in the period 2003-04 to 2007-08 are given in the following table.

£ million

2003-04

818

2004-05

779

2005-06

714

2006-07

579

2007-08

759


Data for 2008-09 will not be available until spring 2010.

This information is published annually in Table 2.3k of Local Government Financial Statistics England No 19 2009 that is available on the Communities and Local Government website at

The data are taken from the Quarterly Return on Collection of Council Tax and Non-domestic Rates return (QRC4) and the national non-domestic rates return (NNDR3) that are completed annually by all billing authorities in England.


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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many firms eligible for small business rate relief were not claiming it on the latest date for which figures are available. [293369]

Barbara Follett: Data is not currently available on the number of businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). We asked local authorities to estimate the numbers of businesses that were eligible for SBRR in the annual national non-domestic rate return. We are examining this data to assess its quality before making a decision about whether it is are suitable for publication. Meanwhile, we are working to see if we can establish an estimate of the number of businesses eligible for SBRR using previous research in this area and so assess the level of take-up.

The number of properties reported by local authorities as claiming SBRR as at December 31 2006 was 392,000. Local authorities also reported that they had granted £997 million in SBRR between April 1 2005 and March 31 2009. They expect to grant a further £306 million in 2009-10.

Non-Domestic Rates: Greater London

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 10 January 2008, Official Report, columns 767-68W, on the Crossrail line: finance, what information his Department holds on the likely (a) start date and (b) end date of the supplementary business rate in London. [293226]

Barbara Follett: The Department's understanding is that the Mayor of London intends (a) to start levying a BRS to support the funding of the Crossrail project from April 2010 and that (b) dependent on the future conditions of the financial markets which will facilitate the borrowing that the BRS will support, that the London Crossrail BRS will run for between 24 and 30 years.

The Mayor of London's plans are set out in his Crossrail BRS prospectus, published on July 30 2009 for consultation. The Business Rate Supplements Act 2009 requires that any revision to the prospectus would have to be consulted on.

Planning Permission

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many planning applications were made in each district and single-tier authority in the last 12 month period for which figures are available; and how many and what proportion of these were referred to planning inspectors for decision in the case of each district or single-tier authority. [293804]

Mr. Ian Austin: The number of planning applications received for each district or single-tier authority in England in 2007-08 is published in table 1.7 from the annual Development Control Statistics, which can be found at:


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Information on the number of planning applications referred to planning inspectors is published by the Planning Inspectorate but is not disaggregated by local authority.

Playing Fields: Planning Permission

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what planning guidance has been produced by his Department on using (a) green belt, (b) countryside and (c) open space for use as playing fields in the last three years. [293344]

Mr. Ian Austin: Planning guidance on playing fields is contained in Planning Policy Guidance note 17—“Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation”, which was published in 2002. No new planning guidance on playing fields has been issued since then.

Public Sector Relocation Independent Review

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what use has been made of the dataset of revaluations produced for the Lyons Review by the Valuation Office Agency since the conclusion of the review; and which public bodies have access to the dataset. [293261]

Barbara Follett: No revaluations took place for the Lyons review. A number of datasets containing address information, attribute data and value estimates were provided to the review team during the period of their review. The data were provided to the Lyons review team expressly for their use only.

The Valuation Office Agency has made no use of these datasets since the conclusion of the review.

No other public bodies have access to this information.

Regional Development Agencies

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what date regional development agencies will commence their roles as regional planning bodies. [293345]

Mr. Ian Austin: There are no proposals for regional development agencies to become regional planning bodies.


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