Latest Public Sector News

09.12.15

Council tax relief and £51m for flooded areas – but more rain on its way

Communities secretary Greg Clark MP has lifted council tax and business rates bills requirements for the residents and businesses displaced by the flooding in the north of England.

This afternoon, the chancellor also announced an extra £51m to support communities, providing councils with over £500 for each household and £2,500 for each business affected. Some of this money will be used to provide grants of up to £5,000 to help people install new flood barriers, replace doors and windows with water-resistant alternatives, or move electricity sockets to a safer level.

Another £10m will be invested in the Environment Agency to bring damaged local flood defences to their target conditions.

To ensure this funding is delivered quickly, Whitehall also created a new Community Recovery Scheme worth nearly £40m, set to be run by councils and provide targeted support on the same basis as in the floods that affected the south west in 2013-14.

Finally, government leaders have pledged to match the money raised by the Cumbria Foundation's Flood Appeal by up to £1m.

The announcement also follows Clark’s decision to open up the Bellwin scheme to help the worst-affected councils recover 100% of their costs above threshold.

He guaranteed that central government funding would be available “for as long as they are out of their properties”.

The unprecedented Storm Desmond hit north-west England – most notably Cumbria and Lancashire – over the weekend, at which point the Environment Agency issued 46 severe flood warnings (meaning ‘danger to life’).

Although this has now dropped to just one, with thousands of homes, hospitals and schools in the region back on the main power supply, the Met Office has forecasted prolonger winter rainfall, with flood alerts remaining in place.

Despite the damage done over the weekend, when water overtopped existing flood defences and cast doubts on the government’s defence scheme, the LGA said councils and emergency crews are ready to deal with more flooding.

Council and emergency service staff have been working around the clock to help communities cope with the storm, with highways teams clearing roads, rescuing motorists and providing skips to help clear debris.

According to the LGA’s winter weather survey earlier this year, nine out of 10 councils are also planning to take action to reduce the risk of flooding on local roads. Cllr Peter Box, its environment spokesman, said staff are currently emptying gullies to alleviate the risk of more road flooding.

They are now gearing to cope with further potential disasters. Housing teams are still lining up emergency accommodation for displaced families while staff continue to check on vulnerable or elderly residents.

Local authorities are also monitoring up-to-the-minute forecasts and standing by emergency services in order to keep residents as informed as possible.

Box said: “This weekend’s storm in Cumbria and Lancashire have reminded us just how unforgiving and formidable nature can be, but councils in the regions have worked hard to try and minimise the impact on residents. Councils work all year round to have emergency plans in place top cope with bad weather, and have moved swiftly to put them into place this week.

“With the bad weather set to return, local authorities up and down the country remain prepared to divert staff from their normal duties and have placed additional employees on standby to work with fire crews and other emergency services to get people help if they need it.”

He reminded all residents that they should keep an eye on council websites and social media feeds for updates on the situation in their local areas, as well as check on frail neighbours to ensure their homes have not been damaged.

(Top image c. Owen Humphreys, PA Images)

Comments

James Cairns   10/12/2015 at 12:58

£51m ? Is that not the same amount our leaders give to the EU every day?

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