HC Deb 16 October 2002 vol 390 c301
2. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase)

If he will make a statement on progress with local PSAs. [71950]

The Minister for Social Exclusion and Deputy Minister for Women (Mrs. Barbara Roche)

We have concluded negotiations and signed agreements with 61 local authorities, including 20 that were involved in the pilot stage of this scheme. We are concluding negotiations with 19 authorities and have started others with a further 13 authorities. A schedule for negotiations has been agreed with the remaining authorities that wish to take part in the scheme.

Tony Wright

I am grateful for that answer.

In the spirit of the new localism, will my hon. Friend ensure that the spirit of the local public service agreements, which were widely welcomed as representing a real partnership for improvement between central and local government, is not lost in the new comprehensive assessment regime but made central to it?

Mrs. Roche

I agree with the important points made by my hon. Friend. Local agreements are essential to local delivery. The best thing about the scheme is that it enables local authorities not only to agree national targets but to deliver the objectives wanted by local people in their area.

Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds)

Can the Minister tell us the annual cost of monitoring these over-bureaucratic local PSA targets?

Mrs. Roche

I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the figures, but I would be careful about criticising them if I were him because all political parties in all the local government organisations warmly welcome them. Indeed, Kent county council, which is controlled by the party that he supports, is a great supporter of them.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

I thank the Minister for rejecting the notion that local PSAs are a bureaucratic encumbrance—there is local authority enthusiasm for them—but will she focus on the aspect that relates to the decent homes standard to ensure that local authorities are not caught in a different trap where the obligations to meet energy efficiency targets are in conflict with their commitments to provide safe housing areas in which people can live?

Mrs. Roche

That is an important point, and my hon. Friend has a very honourable record in this area. The good thing about those schemes is that local authorities and other agencies in the voluntary sector can negotiate with us directly to make sure that they get aims of that kind.