Government 'to cover' sandbag costs


Winter weather Feb 10th

David Cameron has insisted councils should not be charging residents in flood-hit areas for sandbags.

The Prime Minister said there was no need for town halls to recoup the costs because central government would cover them.

Christchurch Borough Council in Dorset has been asking locals to pay £30 for a 'flood pack' of four standard sandbags and one to protect doorways.

A spokesman said: "The situation is that if an emergency is called then we will provide sandbags free of charge.

"We cannot provide them just because people are concerned about things... currently there are no alerts."

Resident Steve Richards told the Bournemouth Echo: "My brother bought 50 at an incredibly high cost but 50 sandbags goes nowhere.

"We feel so helpless, pleading for help and no-one's giving it, yet you switch on the television and the Prime Minister is pledging that no-one will be left vulnerable and money's no object."

Up until the end of last week, Tewkesbury Borough Council was issuing free bags to local people - but asking them to pay for sand to go in them.

A spokeswoman said it had now decided to be "flexible" about the policy.

"In a situation like this we are issuing sandbags to anybody that needs them," she added.

Posting on Twitter, Mr Cameron said: "I've told local councils they should not charge for sandbags in flood-hit areas - central government will pick up the cost."

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: "There is absolutely no reason for any councils to be charging residents for sandbags.

"Councils are able to claim any costs for their emergency response to flooding back from Government under the Bellwin scheme.

"We have spoken to every local authority in the country and are confident that there are more than enough supplies to meet local needs, with volunteers and military support on the ground to make them ready.

"We are able to supply up to 10,000 sandbags a day, and councils such as Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire have been coming to the aid of neighbouring areas."

Government sources said no council had reported any problems obtaining sandbags, and there were 25,000 filled and ready to be deployed.

They insisted local authorities would be able to claim back any cost through the Government's Bellwin Scheme, which provides assistance in emergencies.

Christchurch council said it had sold 29 "flood packs" since Christmas.

The £30 price only covers the cost and there is no profit, a spokesman said.