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Written Statements

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

Written Statements

Thursday 16 March 2017

Communities and Local Government

Tower Hamlets

On 17 December 2014, my predecessor, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, issued specific, targeted directions to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets using his powers under Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999.

At that time a team of commissioners was appointed to exercise specific functions of the authority. Although initially progress was slow, more recently I have been pleased to return selected functions back to the council. I am now considering the overall progress of the council in anticipation of these directions ending on 31 March of this year.

In line with the council’s own expectations, I am considering withdrawing the three commissioners from the Borough and, in support of the recent progress made by the council, maintaining an oversight role through a new general direction. The new direction allows for continued oversight of electoral administration. The Government have invited expressions of interest from local authorities on piloting the use of ID in polling stations in the 2018 local elections. As part of wider steps to strengthen electoral integrity in the Borough, I would welcome Tower Hamlets’ participation.

I have received assurances from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets both in his fourth six-monthly report of 20 February, and in person on 27 February, that he is confident the council is now in a position to drive forward and deliver their own improvement agenda.

This view is endorsed by the commissioners in their report of 21 February which I have carefully considered and discussed with them on 27 February.

I am minded therefore to exercise my powers under Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to revoke the direction of 14 December 2014, end the role of commissioners in the council and hand back executive functions to the Executive Mayor with the proviso that the council delivers all outstanding actions in their best value action plan and the setting up of a best value improvement board as outlined in the Mayor’s letter of 1 March.

I am minded also to direct the council to provide quarterly reports against their best value action plans for a further 18 months; and at the end of this period to carry out an independent review of delivery. As with all councils, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets must abide by the best value duty.

This is a significant step forward for Tower Hamlets Council—it has made considerable progress over the past few months. I am pleased that the guidance of the commissioner team has played such a material role in putting Tower Hamlets on the right road to allow it to take on its rightful functions.

I am inviting the council to make representations on these proposals, which will be considered as part of my final decision.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.

[HCWS543]

Health

NHS Prescriptions, Dental Treatment, and Wigs and Fabric Supports: Charges

As at the start of previous financial years, regulations will today be laid before Parliament to increase certain national health service charges in England from 1 April 2017.

The prescription charge will increase by 20p from £8.40 to £8.60 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. To ensure that those with the greatest need, including patients with long-term conditions, are protected we have frozen the cost of the prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) for another year. The three-month PPC remains at £29.10 and the cost of the annual PPC will stay at £104, allowing unlimited prescriptions within a specified time period. Taken together, this means prescription charges are expected to rise broadly in line with inflation.

Existing arrangements for prescription charge exemptions will remain in place, principally covering those with certain medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy and diabetes, pregnant women and new mothers, children under 16 and anyone over 60, and those on a low income.

As part of a two-year settlement announced last year, the patient charges for NHS dental care in 2017-18 will be as follows:

a band one course of treatment and urgent treatment will increase by 90p from £19.70 to £20.60;

a band two course of treatment will increase by £2.40 from £53.90 to £56.30;

a band three course of treatment will increase by £10.60 from £233.70 to £244.30.

The maximum band three charge is for the approximately 5% of treatments that include items such as crowns or bridges.

Charges for wigs and fabric supports will rise in line with inflation.

Full details of the revised charges for 2017-18 can be found online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-03-16/HCWS539/

[HCWS539]

Home Department

Disclosure and Barring Service

The 2015-16 annual report and accounts for the Disclosure and Barring Service (HC 451) are being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

[HCWS541]

Security Industry Authority

The 2015-16 annual report and accounts for the Security Industry Authority [HC 1088] are being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

[HCWS540]

Immigration Rules

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules [HC 1078].

The changes include a new requirement that individuals over the age of 18, who are applying for entry clearance under the tier 2 general route to work in education, health and social care sectors, must provide a criminal record certificate from any country in which they have lived for 12 months or more in the previous 10 years. This requirement will also apply to the partner of the applicant and a partner applying to join an existing tier 2 migrant in one of these work sectors.

This is the second stage in a phased implementation of the requirement. It currently applies to individuals over 18 applying for entry clearance under tier 1 to come to the UK as entrepreneurs or investors, and their adult dependents. The Home Office will continue to monitor implementation with a view to extending the requirement to other migrants in the future.

On 24 March 2016 the Government announced two phases of reforms to tier 2, following a review by the independent Migration Advisory Committee. The first phase was implemented on 24 November and the changes being laid today implement the second phase of the announced reforms. The changes also update the codes of practice relating to skilled workers, and make other minor updates to the rules for work routes.

Further changes are being made to amend or clarify other provisions in the immigration rules.

[HCWS542]