§ Mr. Sanders
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what statutory powers he has to ensure local authorities meet their statutory duty to house the homeless. 
§ Ms Keeble
Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999 (best value) imposes a general duty on local authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which their functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Section 15 of the 1999 Act provides the Secretary of State with a wide range of intervention powers to secure an authority's compliance with part 1. For example, he may direct the local authority to carry out a review of the function or to contract out the function. The Secretary of State also has the power, in cases of serious failure, to assume responsibility for a function and nominate a person to undertake it on his behalf.
§ Mr. Sanders
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how he determines if a local authority is meeting its statutory duty to house the homeless. 
§ Ms Keeble
The Housing Inspectorate, part of the Audit Commission's Inspection Service undertakes scrutiny of local authorities' housing functions, including their statutory homelessness duties. The Minister for Housing and Planning is notified by the Chief Inspector of Housing of any inspection which concludes that a service is poor, and the Secretary of State has intervention powers which he can use if he is satisfied that the authority is not complying with its statutory best value responsibilities. For the years 2001–01 and 2001–02 local authorities were required to assess their performance against Best Value Performance Indicator 67, the proportion of homelessness applications decided upon within 33 working days. Local authorities are also encouraged to set appropriate local performance indicators.94W
The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions also collects, monitors and publishes at quarterly intervals data about local housing authorities activities under the homelessness legislation. Among other things, this indicates the numbers of applicants accepted by individual authorities as statutorily homeless and the number of households being accommodated under the legislative provisions.
The Homelessness Act 2002 includes provisions which will require local housing authorities to carry out a homelessness review in their district and to formulate a homelessness strategy based on the review. The new Homelessness Directorate being established within DTLR will monitor the development and progress of these reviews and strategies.