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Housing Benefit

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what account his Department took of the requirements of section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 when deciding to post giro cheques for local housing allowance to tenants at multi-occupancy addresses; how many such giro cheques have been stolen; and if he will make a statement. [261693]

Jonathan Shaw [h olding answer 9 March 2009]: Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places a duty on authorities, including local authorities, to consider the likely crime and disorder implications of the functions that they carry out.

Local housing allowance is normally paid direct into bank accounts so the instances of issuing local housing allowance cheques should be minimal. Not being able to open a suitable bank account was accepted under the safeguards as grounds for reverting to payment of local housing allowance to the landlord, particularly in the case of people living in housing in multiple occupation.

We do not collect any statistical information from local authorities specifically on instrument of payment fraud. However, the potential for fraud is expected to be very small given the drive for direct payment into bank accounts and the provisions of the safeguards which allow for reverting to payment of local housing allowance to the landlord in certain circumstances. We are closely monitoring how the scheme is working in practice and will undertake a review during the first two years of national operation.


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Members: Correspondence

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central of 5 November 2008, regarding Brian Hold. [264253]

Jonathan Shaw: A reply was sent to the hon. Member on 27 November 2008.

Pensioners: Carer's Allowance

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 23 February 2009, Official Report, column 43W, on carer's allowance, if he will estimate the cost of extending payment to all those of pension age assessed as eligible; and if he will make a statement. [260422]

Jonathan Shaw: The increase in annual carer's allowance expenditure as a result of the extension described would be around £950 million.

It should be noted that unless major changes to rules on how carer's allowance is treated within pension credit were to be introduced, the overall Exchequer cost of such a measure would be smaller due to the offsetting reduction in pension credit expenditure.

Pensioners: Invalidity Benefits

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of those receiving a state pension were sent an incorrect notification of their state pension entitlement for 2008-09 owing to an error in the calculation of invalidity addition. [260129]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 2 March 2009]: There was no error relating to the calculation of invalidity additions for entitlement to state pension for the year 2008-09. An error has occurred with regard to notifications of state pension entitlement for 2009-10. It is estimated that around 45,000 state pension customers may have received an incorrect notification. This is 0.29 per cent. of the total number of notifications.

Pensioners: Social Security Benefits

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the annual cost to the Exchequer of (a) imputing one pound per week of income from each £1,000 of capital for pensioner applicants for means-tested benefits and (b) abolishing the imputation of income from capital for such applicants; and if he will make a statement. [250399]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 22 January 2009]: In pension credit the first £6,000 of capital is fully disregarded (£10,000 for those in care homes). For each
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£500 (or part of £500) above this level we assume notional income at a rate of £1. There is no upper capital limit in pension credit.

Receipt of the guarantee credit passports recipients onto full housing benefit and council tax benefit.

In housing benefit and council tax benefit there is a capital limit of £16,000, which means that people with capital above this level will not normally qualify for benefit. Capital of £6,000 or less is ignored (£10,000 for those in care homes). For those customers who have reached the age to qualify for pension credit notional income is assumed on capital between £6,000 and £16,000 at a rate of £1 per week for each £500 or part of £500.

The tariff income formula is not intended to represent any rate of return that could be obtained from investing capital. It provides a simple method of calculating the weekly contribution that people with capital in excess of £6,000 (£10,000 for those in care homes) are expected to make from their resources to help meet their normal living costs.

As there is no link with actual market rates, tariff income rules are not adjusted when interest rates change. If you were to calculate an implicit rate for pensioners, based on capital of £6,500 it would be 0.8 per cent.

In answer to part (a) of the question, abolishing the current capital disregard and assuming notional income at a rate of £1 for each £1,000 of capital or part of £1,000 for pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit would save the Exchequer approximately £70 million per year (2008-09 prices). However, pensioners with savings of less than £6,000 would be worse off. Removing the current disregards would mean that all those pensioners with modest savings, who currently have no income assumed from capital, would see their benefit reduced. Retaining the current disregards and calculating national income based on bands of £1,000 above the level of the disregard would cost the Exchequer approximately £170 million per year (2008-09).

In answer to part (b) abolishing the tariff income rules, but retaining the upper capital limits in housing benefit and council tax benefit, would cost approximately £550 million per year (2008-09 prices).

Redundancy: Cumbria

Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have been made redundant in (a) Cumbria and (b) Copeland constituency in the last six months. [263801]

Kevin Brennan: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the Authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated March 2009:


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Winter Fuel Payments

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether his Department is conducting a review into how cold weather payments are calculated. [252974]

Kitty Ussher: The cold weather payment scheme is reviewed every year in the summer. The Met Office will consider all representations from Members of Parliament relating to the suitability of postcode to weather station links. Any changes are then made for the following winter. In addition to this, there has also been an internal review of these processes conducted by the Permanent Secretary of DWP.

Winter Fuel Payments: Lancashire

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how much he expects to pay to pensioner households in West Lancashire constituency in winter fuel payments in 2008-09; [261963]

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of households in West Lancashire constituency which will receive the (a) £250 and (b) £400 winter fuel payment in 2008-09. [261964]

Ms Rosie Winterton: In winter 2006-07, the latest winter for which we have information, my Department made 11,720 winter fuel payments to households in the constituency of West Lancashire with a member aged 60-79; and 2,890 winter fuel payments to households in the constituency of West Lancashire with a member aged 80 or over. I expect similar numbers of winter fuel payments to be paid in 2008-09.

Expenditure on winter fuel payments in the parliamentary constituency of West Lancashire in 2006-07 was £3.4 million. Actual expenditure data are not yet available for 2008-09 and forecasts of benefit expenditure are not produced below national level.

Children, Schools and Families

Building Schools for the Future

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families when he plans to announce decisions on bids for funding under the Buildings Schools for the Future programme made by
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local authorities in response to his Department’s request for bids relating to proposed capital projects which could be brought forward to 2009-10. [263377]

Jim Knight [holding answer 13 March 2009]: We have not invited local authorities to bid to bring forward Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funding, because the strategic planning that underpins BSF means it is not a suitable programme to act as a fiscal stimulus. BSF typically involves the building of entire new schools; so design and planning need care and time. Accelerating the construction would curtail this planning and would thereby jeopardise the quality and transformational nature of the programme. We are however working with partnerships for schools to simplify procedures and accelerate delivery, and the procurement process has already been accelerated and costs reduced.

On 3 March, we announced allocations to authorities and schools of schools capital from other programmes brought forward from 2010-11 into 2009-10, to act as a fiscal stimulus and to bring investment benefits early to pupils and staff. Dorset was allocated advances totalling £12.0 million, of which £9.0 million is for the local authority, and £3.0 million for schools as an advance of devolved formula capital to be used by schools for their local priorities.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which local education authorities (a) have commenced projects under the Building Schools for the Future programme, (b) have been given approval for schemes but have yet to start and (c) have not been given approval for schemes. [263657]

Jim Knight: The formal start of projects in BSF is the meeting between the local authority, DCSF and Partnerships for Schools (PfS) known as the remit meeting.

Please see following list:

Local authorities which have commenced BSF projects


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