Mr. Gareth Thomas
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people applied for places on the local government graduate recruitment scheme; and what plans he has to expand the scheme. 
§ Mr. Leslie
The Government are committed to building the capacity of authorities to respond to local needs and we consider the recruitment and retention of quality staff in authorities to play a key role in improving 897W the delivery services to local people. I refer my hon. friend to the answer given to him on 13 February 2003, Official Report, column 973W.
The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) is run by the Employers Organisation (EO), one of the LGA's central bodies providing services to local authorities. The scheme was launched in 2002 to fund 50 applicants for that year. It was remarkably oversubscribed with 2,350 applications. The EO has made immediate plans to double the intake for this year, and is considering how best to increase the numbers for the future.
Of course the NGDP is not the only source of graduate recruitment available to local authorities. Seven authorities in England run their own graduate schemes. Graduates also enter local government through both general recruitment and specific programmes aimed at professions such as Environmental Health, Finance and Planning. Precise figures for these are not available centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.