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24.11.14

LGA calls for government to simplify distribution of flood funds

Councils say the government must simplify its emergency funds for flood-ravaged areas to ensure this year is better than last.

Last winter saw the wettest autumn and winter for 250 years and caused about £3bn worth of damage. To aid recovery the government announced 14 different flood relief funding pots, worth almost £450m, over the space of two months. Each had their own specific criteria and application process, often making it over-complicated for councils to apply, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

This year, the LGA is calling for a single emergency fund, administered through an online application process, which would help councils, businesses and residents access funding more easily and ensure it reaches local areas in need more quickly.

The Met Office has forecasted months of prolonged winter rainfall with flood alerts having been issued across parts of southern England earlier this month.

Cllr Peter Box, the LGA's environment spokesman, said: "Communities which are still recovering from last year's floods can be assured councils are more ready than ever to protect them from further flooding this winter.

"Councils are monitoring weather forecasts and flood alerts with staff ready to support emergency services, deliver thousands of sandbags, clear roads, pump away floodwater and use state-of-the-art technology to reduce flooding risks at the first sign of worsening weather.

"Emergency government funding has been vital in helping communities recover from the devastation caused by floods. However, we must avoid a repeat of last year when new funding pots were announced by the government on a weekly basis creating confusion about how to apply and what it could be spent on."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Following last winter’s unprecedented severe weather the government committed nearly £560m to support local authorities and those who were affected by flooding, including extending the Bellwin scheme to cover 100% of all eligible costs. However, we are currently reviewing arrangements for flood recovery funding and will be making an announcement shortly.”

Councils in areas that were badly affected by the floods last year have worked hard to shore up flood defences to protect homes and businesses, repair gullies and fix damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The LGA says that its Winter Weather Survey shows that local authorities are ready for any repeat of last winter’s storms.

As part of their plans 68% of councils will be deploying gully-sucking lorries this winter to remove excess water and sludge from drains and gullies.

In response to the tidal surge last year that affected more than 1,100 properties along the Humber, East Riding of Yorkshire Council is leading a project to install new flood defences.  The proposed new £1.2m defences, in the village of Paull, will involve installing a reinforced steel and aluminium structure interspaced with glass panels designed to withstand water pressure and capable of taking an impact from large debris.

Storm repairs have been completed on 56 schemes in coastal areas by Cornwall Council. The area experienced 12 major storms between December 2013 and March 2014, causing huge damage to coastal infrastructure in 245 locations, with damage to properties, beaches, piers, bridges and harbours.

To protect homes and infrastructure from further erosion, Poole Council will pump around 40,000 cubic metres of sand onto Shore Beach. The work will take place 24/7 over two weeks from mid-November.

In Leicester, the council and the Environment Agency are due to start work to remove a large amount of silt that has built up over the last 100 years between the two southernmost arches of the Biam Bridge. The work will involve lowering the ground level beneath the arches by about one metre, which will help reduce the risk of flooding to hundreds of homes.

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