Latest from Parliament ending 17 Feb 2011 (in recess after this date)

Council Tax Benefit

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): The spending review 2010 announced that Government would localise council tax benefit from 2013-14, and reduce its costs by 10%. The Welfare Reform Bill, published today, took the first step in that direction by taking enabling powers to abolish council tax benefit. Further changes will follow to establish the new system from 2013-14.

I can confirm that the Government remain committed to retaining council tax support for the most vulnerable in society and that they will be taking forward plans for councils to develop local rebate schemes. This reform is part of the decentralisation agenda. It will create stronger incentives for councils to get people back into work and so support the positive work incentives that will be introduced through the Government's plans on universal credit.

Full consultation on the system of local council tax rebate schemes will be undertaken in due course, led by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Parliament will have the final say on any new regime in England. The Government will discuss the devolved implications with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

Combined with other incentives-such as the new homes bonus and our proposals for the local retention of business rates-these changes will give councils a greater stake in the economic future of their local area, so supporting the Government's wider agenda to enable stronger, balanced economic growth across the country.

 Independent review into Housing Benefit

Glenda Jackson:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the contribution of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of 24 January 2011, Official Report, House of Lords, column 778, on the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2010, when he expects to commission the independent review into housing benefit; whom he expects to undertake the review; what method he plans to use to identify the review team; when he expects the review to report; and if he will make a statement. [39304]

Steve Webb:The Department is in the process of a procurement exercise with leading research organisations for the evaluation and working on the final specification of the project.

We will work to the Government Social Research Code to commission a team of independent, external researchers who will undertake the review and fieldwork elements of the project by early April.

The Department anticipates emerging findings of the implementation of the new measures will be available by the spring of 2012. Interim findings will be available by the summer of 2012. Draft final findings will be available by the winter of 2012-13.