To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what decision has been made in relation to the future of the rent officer service; and how many responses were received during the consultation period. 
I announced on 7 August that I had concluded that there was a strong case for the creation of a Next Steps Agency for the Rent Officer Service in England. I said then that before taking a final decision I would be consulting interested parties, including the Local Government Association, the trades unions representing rent officers and their support staff, and other interested parties. That consultation is now complete, and I am grateful for the 63 responses I received from individuals and organisations. I am placing a summary of these in the Library.There is general agreement that the current arrangements are unsatisfactory, but views differ on the solution. Many respondents favoured the Agency proposal, but support was also expressed for various alternative proposals. I have given very careful consideration to all the views which have been submitted, but have concluded that none of the alternative suggestions would tackle satisfactorily the inherent problems of the Service, which are caused by the unclear pattern of accountability and local inconsistencies of approach. I have therefore decided to proceed with the establishment of a Next Steps Agency for the Rent Officer Service in England.My Department will now go ahead, in consultation with interested parties, to make preparations for establishing the Agency. It will be necessary to ensure that the implementation costs can be contained within the available public expenditure provision. For this reason, and because of the amount of detailed planning yet to be done, I cannot yet say when the Agency will become operational, but it will be as soon as practicable.