§ Mr. Kirkwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what has been the cost of setting up the verification framework; and what assessment has he made of the costs to local authorities in excess of central Government funding; 
(2) what have been the costs of setting up and implementing the verification framework; what are the costs of operating the verification framework; and what information he holds about the shortfall in funds from central Government; and what information he has collated about the costs of local authorities in setting up and operating the verification framework. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
The verification framework (VF) was introduced in May 1998 and aims to tighten the gateway onto housing benefit and council tax benefit. It does so through a set of defined standards for collecting and checking evidence before a claim can be paid and during the lifetime of the claim. From April 2002 the VF has been separated into three modules allowing authorities to introduce the scheme incrementally.
Authorities who apply to join the scheme receive a one-off payment as set-up funding and funding to continue operating once they become fully compliant with the scheme module or modules that they have chosen.
Details of total sums spent to date are in the table.
In August 2000, a number of local authorities already compliant with the VF took part in a departmental survey' of the cost to local authorities of setting up and running the framework. The results of the survey indicated that implementation and operating costs vary considerably between local authorities, so it is not possible to provide a generalised estimate of the costs for local authorities.
Amount spent on set-up and continuing costs for the verification framework £000 Set-up costs Continuing costs 1998–99 4,900 580 1999–2000 15,465 13,662 2000–01 3,484 20,898 2001–02 7,244 31,338 Total to date 31,093 66,478
1. 1998–99, 1999–2000 and 2000–01 data obtained from published departmental accounts.
2. 2001–02 data obtained from departmental housing benefit/council tax benefit administrative payments system.202W
3. The data does not account for costs repaid after the close of the relevant financial year.
1 Cost of the Verification Framework, DSS Operational Research, Analytical Services Division 2A, published April 2001.