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Regional Assemblies

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much funding each local authority contributes in the financial year 2002–03 to funding regional assemblies; what the expenditure of each regional assembly (a) was in that period and (b) is expected to be in 2003–04; how many staff each assembly employs; and what estimate he has made of the effect upon council tax levels of funding regional assemblies. [114718]

The information requested is not collected centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Regional Assemblies are answerable to central Government for the use of their allocation of the Chambers Fund (in both 2002–3 and 2003–4 £5 million per annum across the eight regions); Regional Planning Body money (in 2003–4 £6 million per annum); and Planning Delivery Grant (in 2003–4 £3 million per annum). Their financial arrangements with local authorities are a matter between them and the relevant local authorities.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the timescale is for (a) English regional chambers to set up regional planning bodies as provided for in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill and (b) drawing up regional spatial strategies; how this timetable will be linked with that for drawing up regional transport strategies; what estimate he has made of (i) the initial and (ii) the annual running costs of regional planning bodies; and from which budgets these costs will be met. [114343]

Consideration is also being given to increasing the use of pre-inquiry meetings (where the appointed Inspector can set out the timetable and running order in advance of the inquiry) for suitable cases.

All the English regional chambers are now regional planning bodies (RPBs). Providing they operate in a sufficiently inclusive way they will be recognised as RPBs once the relevant provisions of the new Bill commence. On commencement my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will prescribe which existing regional planning guidance should become regional spatial strategies (RSSs). Thereafter, the timetable for revisions to particular RSSs, including their transport elements, will be agreed between the RPB and the Government Office. RPB running costs are a matter for them. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is contributing over £9 million, including planning delivery grant, this year towards RPB running costs. RPBs can also receive moneys or in kind assistance from local authority and other member organisations.