East Anglia: Councils may not meet threshold for flood help

Tidal flood damage at Fox’s Marina Ipswich this morning.
Callum Maclean

Tidal flood damage at Foxs Marina Ipswich this morning. Callum Maclean - Credit: Archant

Departments across Whitehall will meet today to discuss if more needs to be done to help areas hit by flooding as some councils claimed it was unlikely they would be able to claim back central government cash.

In a statement to the House of Commons environment secretary Owen Paterson said a scheme to reimburse local authorities for their immediate costs, including operating rest centres and funding extra staff hours, had been enacted.

While the payback policy, known as the Bellwin Scheme, could help the hardest hit councils, they will have to reach a certain threshold if they are to claim back any money.

But Mr Paterson said that in the next few days the government would be discussing with every local authority area affected what further help is needed.

A cross-Whitehall co-ordination meeting will be held today to assess the national picture, and ministers could meet next week.

Large parts of Suffolk and Essex were affected by last week’s floods –with property damaged and people forced to leave their homes.

Waveney District Council – which includes areas such as Lowestoft and Southwold – said it was almost impossible to put a figure on what the response and recovery would cost.

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But other councils hit by the floods, including Norfolk County Council and West Norfolk Council said they thought they were unlikely to reach their threshold.

The Bellwin Scheme will only pay out if costs exceed 0.2% of a local authority’s revenue budget. If this threshold is met then 85% of the costs will be paid out.

In his statement to the House of Commons Mr Paterson, who chaired three meetings of the emergency committee COBRA, also praised the “excellent response from our front line emergency services”.

He said: “I pay tribute to the community spirit of ordinary people who have rallied round to help their neighbours in difficult times.

“I want to particularly praise the work of the Environment Agency, Met Office and Flood Forecasting Centre. There were also many local authorities which worked tirelessly to prepare for and respond to the surge as it happened.”

He also said that a full assessment of the impact on agricultural land and sites of special scientific interest would take place over the coming weeks.