Wymondley Parish Council News

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Flood relief in Hertfordshire

In England, responsibility for flood risk management is split between the Environment Agency and top-tier councils, who must prepare and maintain local strategies, keep a register of physical features that have a significant effect on flooding in their area, investigate significant local flooding incidents and publish the results, and play a lead role in emergency planning and recovery after a flood event. Under the legislation, the County Council is a Lead Flood Authority.
District and borough councils, water and sewerage companies, internal drainage boards and highways authorities also have roles to play in other aspects of flood management.
The new Cabinet Committee on Flooding met for the first time last week, to help coordinate the UK’s strategic long-term plans on flood recovery and flood resilience.
The committee agreed to a targeted review of resilience of the transport network and a review of the investment decision guidelines on flood defence. An annual resilience review will also consider local, regional and national responses to extreme weather conditions.
It was also agreed to review the Bellwin scheme, which provides emergency financial assistance to local authorities. The scheme is usually set up in response to weather events, but can also be used to cover other circumstances. It is a discretionary scheme which exists to give special financial assistance to local authorities who would otherwise be faced with an undue financial burden as a result of providing relief and carrying out immediate work due to large-scale emergencies.
Where the criteria of the scheme are met, the grant is normally payable to authorities at 85 per cent of the eligible costs incurred above a threshold set for each authority, although occasionally the grant rate is increased to 100%.
A Bellwin scheme may be activated, at the discretion of the Secretary of State, in any case where:
an emergency or disaster involving destruction of or danger to life or property occurs and, as a result, one or more local authorities incur expenditure on, or in connection with the taking of immediate action to safeguard life or property, or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience in their area or among its inhabitants.
Councils, police, fire and National park authorities are eligible for Bellwin reimbursement when they have spent more than the usual threshold 0.2 per cent of their calculated annual revenue budget on works which meet the above criteria that have been reported to the Department as eligible for an announced grant scheme.
At this stage, it remains unclear as to whether these reviews will offer assistance to authorities who have to deal with (relatively) minor, localised flooding incidents, irrespective of the fact that there may be a substantial cumulative impact on residents and available resources across an authority’s area. It is equally uncertain as to whether ‘Bellwin criteria’ might be met locally.
Government have additionally announced a package of support for affected homes and businesses and promised some potential assistance for highways measures. On the face of it, some of these would appear to offer some hope of assistance. However, until further details are published, to what extent this might apply to any local area within the county is unknown.
I list the principal statements presently to hand.
• a £5,000 “repair and renew” grant for all affected homeowners and businesses - this will top up any money received from insurers to ensure flood resilience is built into homes and businesses as they are repaired. Details on how to apply for the grant will be published next week - week starting Monday 17 February.
•a separate Business Support Scheme worth up to £10million for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods
• all affected businesses will get 100% business rate relief for 3 months and will also get an extra 3 months to pay the business taxes they owe to HMRC as they get back on their feet
• a £10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields to help restore it to farmable land as quickly as possible.
• a total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods
• railways and roads - £31 million for 10 rail resilience projects and £30 million for local authorities in England for road maintenance required due to severe weather