Major Package of Support for Storm-Hit Areas

Major Package of Support for Storm-Hit Areas

Government announces thousands of pounds of support including grants, council tax relief and business rate relief for people and businesses in areas affected by flooding.

On 18 February, the government announced thousands of pounds of support for people affected by flooding following Storms Dennis and Ciara. Measures apply to those affected in district or unitary authorities that have 25 or more flooded households as a result of the recent storms.

Support to the affected businesses and households comes after the government activated the emergency Bellwin scheme after Storm Ciara on 10 February and Storm Dennis on 17 February 2020.

Explainer: Bellwin Scheme

Bellwin is a scheme of emergency financial assistance to help local authorities meet uninsurable costs they incur when dealing with the aftermath of an emergency in their area. When the scheme is activated each local authority can claim for eligible costs above a set threshold. Bellwin is regularly activated in times of emergency to make financial assistance available to local authorities.

The Bellwin scheme was activated for qualifying areas in West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire which have seen significant impacts following Storm Ciara.

It has also been activated for qualifying areas in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire and Herefordshire which have seen significant impacts following Storm Dennis.

There is a heightened flood risk mainly in parts of the Midlands. River levels will remain especially high on the Rivers Wye and Severn, continuing on the lower River Avon until Saturday. Further heavy rain is forecast in the north of England for Wednesday into Thursday and may fall on catchments that have been recently flooded.

As of 1.30pm on Tuesday 18 February there were six Severe Flood Warnings in place. Four severe flood warnings are in place along the River Severn at New Street, the Wharfage, Uckinghall and Waterside. Two severe flood warnings are in place along the River Wye at Hampton Bishop and along the River Lugg at Hampton Bishop. Severe flood warnings mean a potential danger to life and immediate action is required. Residents should follow the advice of the emergency services.

Groundwater levels remain high and in some places are rising again in parts of Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, North Lincolnshire, East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

Under the Flood Recovery Framework and as some affected areas move into recovery, families and businesses will receive funding from their local councils after a set of support packages were announced by the Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Under the scheme, local authorities dealing with the flooding can apply to have 100% of their eligible costs, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government. This could be for items including rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime. More specifically, under the measures announced yesterday:

  • Flood-hit households in affected areas can apply for up to £500 in financial hardship payments to give cash quickly to those in short-term need.
  • Households and businesses significantly affected by recent flooding will be eligible for 100% council tax and business rates relief for at least three months.
  • Small-to-medium sized businesses in affected areas which have suffered severe, uninsurable losses will be eligible for up to £2,500 from the Business Recovery Grant.
  • Flood-hit homes and businesses can apply for up to £5,000 to help make them more resilient to future flooding.

The Local Government Secretary also announced the government would convene the cross-Whitehall Flood Recovery Taskforce, including environment, businesses and transport ministers, to provide individual areas with bespoke support and guidance. The first meeting will take place this week.

Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP 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.”

Environment Secretary Rt Hon George Eustice MP said that the government is already investing £2.6 billion in flood defences by 2021, with over 600 projects already protecting 200,000 properties. This crucial funding will help people to make their homes more resilient and better protected if flooding happens again.

Support of businesses is widely sought after following recent floods. As MIB wrote earlier, Business Recovery Grants up to £2,500 were available from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to eligible small and medium-sized businesses which had suffered severe impacts from November floods.

In general, it has been an exceptionally wet winter so far with autumn rainfall records being broken for South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. England as a whole had its fifth wettest autumn on record.

The public can check their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation at gov.uk/check-flood-risk, or by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or following @EnvAgency on Twitter.

Image: artisan263 / Adobe Stock

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Helen Macefield reports on UK news.