Government announces financial support for flood-hit communities
Owners of flood-hit homes will be able to apply for a £500 emergency grant and exemption from paying council tax, the Communities Secretary has confirmed.
Both homeowners and businesses will be able to seek 100% relief from council tax and business rates respectively as they start to salvage their properties after suffering the impact of storms Dennis and Ciara.
The storms ripped through parts of the UK in recent weeks, with South Wales, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire all declaring major incidents after Storm Dennis’ weekend gales – four people were declared dead as a result of the extreme wet weather.
On top of the £500 hardship relief for individual households, the Government is also fronting up £2,500 to each business hit by flooding.
And grants worth up to £5,000 will be made available to both businesses and households impacted by the floods to allow them to pay for changes that could help make their properties more resilient in the future.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Storms Dennis and Ciara have severely impacted a large number of households and businesses – and I recognise how destabilising this can be.
“This extra support, including new funding, will help people in the worst-hit areas to recover and get back on their feet as soon as possible.
“I’d like to thank the emergency services and key agencies on the ground for their dedication and tireless work to help everyone affected in extremely challenging circumstances.”
The Cabinet minister also announced that the cross-Whitehall Flood Recovery Taskforce would convene this week, bringing together environment, businesses and transport ministers to provide flood-stricken areas with support and guidance.
The financial measures announced apply to those affected in district or unitary authorities that have 25 or more flooded households as a result of storms Ciara and Dennis.
The £500 community recovery grant to individual households will be paid to local councils by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), while the £2,500 business recovery grant will come from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and paid to businesses who cannot recover flood damage costs from insurance.
But Labour criticised the Government for being slow to help communities that have found themselves submerged.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: “After days of inaction, ministers are now finally lurching slowly into action.
“With the Prime Minister nowhere to be seen and calls to convene Cobra to help communities flooded again ignored, this smacks of being a desperate PR exercise.”
The extra cash for flood-hit areas comes after the Government activated the emergency Bellwin scheme, both after Storm Ciara on February 10 and Storm Dennis on February 17.
Under the scheme, local authorities dealing with the flooding can apply to have 100% of their eligible costs reimbursed by the Government after putting on rest centres and temporary accommodation, or to pay staff for overtime.
With six severe flood warnings, 148 flood warnings and 188 flood alerts in place as on Tuesday, the Environment Agency is urging people to check the latest safety advice, with further heavy rain expected to fall on areas already affected by the wet weather later this week.
The agency said it has more than 900 staff on the ground operating flood defences and temporary pumps, clearing debris from rivers, inspecting flood defences and supporting affected communities.
Operational teams have put up more than 6km of temporary flood barriers across the country and flood defences have protected nearly 25,000 properties from the impacts of Storm Dennis, said an agency spokesman.