1 Feb 2011 : Column 39WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Communities and Local Government

Council Housing Finance

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): Today signals a landmark in the freeing up of councils to successfully manage their own housing stock for the benefit of their tenants. A change that has long been talked about, but the coalition Government are actually delivering.

Today we are publishing the information councils need to plan for this significant reform. Reforms which will see councils keep their own rents and spend them on their own housing. This includes a detailed description as to how their opening financial position will be determined and the process for implementing these reforms in April 2012. It also gives each local authority a much clearer idea as to exactly how they will be affected by the reforms. This will enable them to use the next 14 months to plan ahead and put themselves in the best possible position to maximise the benefits of the new freedoms. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

In line with the Government's emphasis on transparency, local authorities and tenants will be able to see how and why the valuation has altered since the proposals published in March 2010.

Our proposals for self-financing for council housing will:

These reforms are fair. They are rooted in a consistent and tested calculation of the value of each council's social housing business, producing a sustainable self-financing settlement for each local authority. I expect all councils to welcome the reforms and to start planning now how to make the most of their new freedom.

Research Projects (Previous Administration)

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): Today the Government are publishing the first group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration.

There is a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were produced by the previous Government and over the next few months we will be publishing these reports in groups themed on a particular topic.


1 Feb 2011 : Column 40WS

The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our freedom of information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research. For transparency, all completed work is being published regardless of format or robustness.

The 16 reports published today represent the findings from 11 research projects at a total cost of £691,000. These findings cover the topics of housing; local government and building, planning and the environment.

The Government are concerned to ensure their research delivers the best possible value for money for the taxpayer and that sums expended are reasonable in relation to the public policy benefits obtained. DCLG has put in place scrutiny and challenge processes for future research.

All new projects will be scrutinised to ensure the methodology is sound and that all options for funding are explored at an early stage. This includes using existing work from other organisations, joint funding projects with other Departments or organisations and taking work forward in-house.

Housing

(i) Behavioural change and the housing sector: A scoping study report-This report by Ferrari et al considers the benefits and implications of applying behavioural economics to analyse the motivations and decisions made by different actors in the housing supply and demand chain.

(ii) Choice-based lettings, potentially disadvantaged groups and accessible housing registers: A guide to positive practice-The guide provides advice on how to set up and operate choice-based letting schemes to ensure that social housing applicants are not disadvantaged by the proactive nature of choice-based lettings.

(iii) Choice-based lettings, potentially disadvantaged groups and accessible housing registers: summary guide to positive practice-This report is a shorter, stand-alone summary of the "choice-based lettings, potentially disadvantaged groups and accessible housing registers: a guide to positive practice". This summary contains all the key messages of the longer report.

(iv) Costs and effectiveness of accessible housing registers in a choice-based lettings context-This report examines the cost and effectiveness of accessible housing registers in a choice-based letting context.

Local Government

(v) Strategic commissioning for place shaping: Volume 1-A report written by practitioners for practitioners and Volume 2-Case studies-The long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships includes two action learning sets, short projects where practitioners meet and share learning about how to improve the day-to-day working of particular aspects of local area agreements. The sets cover strategic commissioning for place shaping.

(vi) Long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships: Performance management of local strategic partnerships and local area agreements -An action learning set report written by practitioners for practitioners. The long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships includes two action learning sets, short projects where practitioners meet and share learning about how to improve the day-to-day working of particular aspects of local
1 Feb 2011 : Column 41WS
area agreements. The sets cover performance management of local strategic partnerships and local area agreements.

(vii) Report on the 2009 survey of local strategic partnership partners: Main report and Annexes-This research was commissioned as part of the long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships. It captures the views of local partners-from the public, private and voluntary sectors-on a range of subjects, including how effective they think their partnership is, and the local area agreements and other powers help partnerships achieve their objectives.

(viii) Long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships: Collaboration, innovation and value for money-Final report of the call-down project. This report, part of the long-term evaluation of local area agreements and local strategic partnerships, explored the ways in partnerships had made use of innovation to meet shared priorities, and examined the contribution of value-for-money considerations in the process of innovation design and implementation.

(ix) Understanding performance in a flexible, decentralised approach to delivery-This report provides help and worked examples in moving between geographies as a way to understand performance, to meet cross-cutting policy requiring local information at bespoke geographic areas independent of formal administrative or statistical units.

(x) Using and developing place typologies for policy purposes-This report supports area-based policy-making, particularly in regeneration and local economic development, and the monitoring and comparison of local government performance. It provides advice on how to make policy sensitive to the enormous variability in neighbourhoods, districts, cities or towns by using methods for categorising places.

(xi) A study to determine whether it is possible to produce Gross Value Added data for upper tier local authorities-This report details the ONS regional accounts' methodology used to produce gross value added estimates at nomenclature of units for territorial statistics (NUTs) level 3 estimates, and evaluates whether the methodology can be extended to upper-tier authorities for which gross value added estimates do not currently exist.

Building, Planning and the Environment

(xii) Evaluating the effectiveness and outcomes of DCLG funded interventions into the delivery of core strategies-This report evaluates the effectiveness of DCLG funded support packages used to promote the delivery of "core strategy" development plans for those local authorities that were encouraging higher levels of housing growth under the previous Government.

(xiii) Code for sustainable homes water calculator-This report reviews the water efficiency calculator for new dwellings, which supported the code for sustainable homes.

(xiv) Building regulations system and the planning system-A better regulation approach for sustainability. This report analyses the interface between planning and building regulations in the context of environmental sustainability, to investigate the overlaps, synergies and gaps between the two systems.


1 Feb 2011 : Column 42WS

(xv) The scope of an MOT test for buildings-This report covers a scoping study into the possible development of an MOT test for buildings and whether it was feasible to have periodic tests carried on buildings.

(xvi) The use of civil sanctions to enforce building regulations-This report looks at the possibility of adopting some or all of the civil sanctions made available under the regulatory Sanctions and Enforcement Act 2008 for the purpose of achieving higher levels of compliance with the building regulations.

These reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not a reflection of the current Government's policies and priorities. DCLG is publishing these reports in the interests of transparency.

Copies of these reports are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Programme Spending 2011-12

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): In my statement to the House of 29 June 2010, I informed the House of the outcome of my review of how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will spend its programme funding in this financial year. I am now in a position to announce decisions about programme spending for the next financial year 2011-12.

The Foreign Office's priorities are to safeguard Britain's national security, build British prosperity and support British nationals around the world.

The review we have conducted will ensure that FCO programme spending is aligned with our priorities and contributes to the development of Britain's diplomatic influence and the promotion of our values. We must ensure the money is spent effectively and supports the Government's commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI as official development assistance (ODA) by 2013.

As a result of the review the FCO will change the way it manages its programme spending. We will give British ambassadors greater responsibility for deciding how best to spend their local budgets to support UK foreign policy objectives and strengthen bilateral relationships. We will reduce administrative spending and seek other cost savings. We will introduce new procedures to assess the impact of FCO programme spending worldwide.

For the 2011-12 financial year, we have decided to allocate:

This is a total of £139.5 million. I anticipate that in future years it will be necessary to make some reductions in these allocations in order to be able to continue to support our diplomatic network overseas, while achieving the savings we committed to making during the comprehensive spending review.


1 Feb 2011 : Column 43WS

Within the overall allocations set out above we have made a number of significant decisions on funding for individual programmes next year.

On security, we will sustain spending on counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation at £38 million and £3 million respectively. We will provide £16 million for spending on counter-narcotics and rule of law programmes in Afghanistan. This represents a reduction of £2 million, which will be made possible without affecting the outcomes of our projects there, as several of them will reach the end of their capital investment stage. We will incorporate future spending on drugs and crime projects into the bilateral programmes managed by posts overseas, while provide a total of £2 million as a ring-fenced element within those budgets to be dedicated to projects on drugs and crime.

We will significantly increase spending on programmes to help countries develop and to support UK prosperity, bringing these to a total of £20 million. We will spend more on projects which promote openness, international trade and investment, transparent and stable regulatory environments and strengthen the multilateral trading system and international investment opportunities, while resisting protectionism, including creating a commercial diplomacy fund of £4 million dedicated to identifying and securing commercial opportunities for our businesses, and supporting inward investment to the UK. We will maintain current levels of spending on our successful programme which promotes the global transition to a
1 Feb 2011 : Column 44WS
low-carbon economy, energy efficiency and security, and is intended to increase the prospects of reaching a global climate change agreement.

In terms of the promotion of our diplomatic influence and values, we will increase funding for bilateral programmes to £19 million, including a ring-fenced allocation for the western Balkans and other non-EU countries in Europe. We will establish a new fund of £5 million to address, in partnership with regional governments, the long-term underlying governance and social, economic and political participation issues affecting the Arab world. We will increase spending in the support of the overseas territories to £7 million. We will sustain our spending on human rights and democracy at £5 million. We will slightly increase spending in support of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to £3.5 million. We will dedicate £17 million to spending on scholarships while at the same time ensuring a greater proportion of that spending is in Commonwealth countries.

We will reduce spending on strategic communications by one third to £2 million, targeting spending on activities and initiatives which actively support FCO priorities, and spend a greater proportion of this funding in posts overseas.

I will provide the House with details of programme spending for future years in due course together with further information about how we will ensure that these funds provide the best possible value for the public money.


    Index Home Page