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Written Statements

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 14 May 2003

Environment, Food And Rural Affairs

Departmental Report 2003

My 2003 Departmental Report, which contains information on progress against the Department's objectives, the challenges ahead for the forthcoming financial year and summary expenditure plans for the Department for 2003–04 to 2005–06, will be published today. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work And Pensions

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) inspection report of compliance with the Race Relations Act of the Housing and Council Tax Benefit and counter-fraud services of 10 randomly selected local authorities was published today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.The BFI completed an inspection of the 10 authorities to establish how each met the requirements of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The Act demands that public bodies remove discrimination and proactively promote race equality. An overarching report that covers all 10 local authorities has been produced.The BFI found that seven of the 10 authorities had a race equality scheme in place by the deadline of 31 May 2002 and the remaining three had a scheme in place by October 2002.However, BFI considers that all local authorities will need to look closer at the housing benefit and council tax benefit services they provide their community to ensure equal treatment across all areas.The report notes that positive action to promote services and consult with users was more prominent in larger local authorities with a high black and minority ethnic population where residents were often supported through community groups. Additionally there was a notably higher standard in local authorities where there was clear evidence of strong commitment from senior officers and members.The report notes that local authorities recognised the need to monitor recruitment of staff through all the stages. There was less commitment to measure staff progression, development, training and performance of existing staff members. Delivery of staff training on the requirements of the Act was sporadic.The BFI has incorporated the requirements of the Race Relations Act into its inspection process. Future inspection reports will report on compliance with the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

Child Poverty

I have published "Measuring Child Poverty Consultation: Preliminary Conclusions". Copies have been placed in the Library.The Government issued a consultation document in April 2002 to promote debate on how best to build on their existing indicators to measure child poverty in the long term. The document published today outlines recommendations and next steps based on a thorough analysis of the responses to the consultation document and to events held with children and young people, and adults with experience of poverty.Further technical work is necessary before finalising the precise details of any new measures for the long term.We remain committed to our existing public service agreements. We have taken action to raise the incomes of all families, especially those on the lowest incomes, and we are making steady progress towards the Government's target to reduce by a quarter the number of children living in low-income households by 2004–05, with the impact of the new tax credits still to be felt.

Treasury

Ogcbuyingsolutions

OGCbuying.solutions has been set the following performance targets for 2003–04

  • i. The Agency will facilitate at least £120 million value for money improvements for Central Civil Government over the 2003–04 year.
  • ii. The Agency will continue to achieve levels of customer satisfaction above 90 per cent.
  • iii. The Agency will make a Return On Capital Employed (ROCE) payment of 8 per cent.
  • iv. The Agency will reduce by 5 per cent. the ratio of internal costs over value for money improvements compared with the outturn for the same ration in 2002–03.
  • A copy of the Agency's Business Plan for 2003–04 can be found on their website

    www.obcbuyingsolutions.gov.uk.

    Health

    Nhs Foundation Trusts

    I have today placed in the Library a list of those National Health Service trusts that have been successful in their preliminary application for NHS foundation trust status, with a view to their establishment in April 2004, subject, of course, to Parliament's approval of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill 2003, currently before the House of Commons. These NHS trusts will now enter the preparatory stage for NHS foundation trust status. The applicant NHS trusts must satisfy the requirements of the preparatory phase, outlined in "The Guide to NHS Foundation Trusts", and must retain three stars in the performance ratings to be published in the summer before they can be approved to become NHS foundation trusts. The objective of the full application process is to help applicants to prepare for NHS foundation trust status, check whether the applicant's vision to utilise the freedoms of NHS foundation trust status is consistent with the aims of the policy, and to test the organisation's readiness.