§ Mr. John Stanley
The rateable value limits are kept under review, but there are no present plans for an increase.
§ Mr. Hicks
Does my hon. Friend agree that in country areas especially, property such as former vicarages, farmhouses and amalgamated cottages play an essential part in meeting local housing needs? Will he recognise that these houses are essentially old and often in need of repair? Therefore, the limit should be increased.
§ Mr. Stanley
My hon. Friend will be aware that it has been the view of successive Governments that improvement grant expenditure should be concentrated on lower value properties because of the likelihood that the owners of such property will be most in need of public expenditure. I assure my hon. Friend that rateable values have not changed since 1977, when the last rating revaluation took effect. Therefore, there has been no effective deterioration in the number of dwellings that are eligible. A high proportion of the dwellings that are in need of improvement fall below the rateable value limits and are therefore eligible.
§ Mr. Cartwright
Does the Minister accept that one of the problems revealed by the English house condition 883 survey, especially in London and the south-east, was a deterioration in the condition of many of the homes belonging to elderly owner-occupiers? Clearly, pensioners have particular problems in negotiating the complexities of the improvement grant system. What action is he taking to deal with this problem?
§ Mr. Stanley
We have to help the low-income groups, including the low-income elderly. We have extended the 90 per cent. grant until the end of the 1983–84 financial year. An important issue is raised in helping people to get the necessary advice and to take advantage of the available grants. We are encouraging the building societies—I did so at a Building Society Association seminar last Friday—to work with local authorities in helping to provide agency services for the elderly.