Communities affected by severe weather will benefit from enhanced support to help meet the costs associated with protecting lives and properties.
The government is also changing the terms of the Bellwin Scheme to help local authorities in England meet the immediate costs associated with protecting lives and properties.
Enhancements have been made to the scheme to reflect the exceptional nature of recent storms and the role councils play as first responders.
The changes will:
ensure the Bellwin grant is paid at 100% above threshold instead of 85%
extend the eligible spending period until the end of March 2014
reduce Bellwin thresholds for all county councils and unitary authorities
allow upper tier authorities with responsibility for fire services to claim Bellwin on a comparable basis to standalone fire authorities for fire related costs
Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said:
We are determined to support those councils on the front line working hard to protect their communities and ensure local authorities have the confidence to provide the help needed in the knowledge that funds are available to meet costs.
In the longer term the government is committed to undertaking a review of the scheme to see if any changes are needed in the way the scheme operates, in light of more frequent and challenging storms.
The government is putting in place a separate recovery package, specifically for the Somerset Levels, to take account of the particularly severe and ongoing flooding they are experiencing.
It is also developing a cross-government 6 week action plan that will provide a longer term solution to the problems with flooding on the Somerset Levels.
Ministers have met and continue to meet with local authority leaders from the affected areas to get a clear picture of what is happening on the ground in their areas and their individual requirements for support.
The government activated the Bellwin Scheme back in December. Councils, police, fire and national park authorities are eligible for certain clearing up costs under the Bellwin scheme when they have spent more than 0.2% of their calculated annual revenue budget on works that have been reported to the department as eligible for grant.
The Bellwin scheme compensates councils retrospectively for the exceptional costs incurred. Until now the standard Bellwin scheme provided reimbursement for eligible costs at 85% above a threshold. The threshold recognises that councils have a long-established responsibility to be prepared for unforeseen events.
Ministers today also committed to undertake a longer-term review of the Bellwin scheme to assess what changes may be needed to its operation in the light of more frequent and challenging weather events. Support for other parts of the United Kingdom is a matter for the devolved administrations.
The changes are in addition to the recently announced £7 million severe weather recovery scheme. The scheme, run in conjunction with the Department for Transport, will help local authorities in England get back on their feet quickly by funding some of the recovery costs to aid flooded properties and repair damaged local highway infrastructure.
The government has also deployed national fire assets to those areas most in need.
The changes to the Bellwin Scheme will apply to applications relating to severe weather in England from 5 December 2012.
The Prime Minister also announced that there would be “no restrictions on help” for those affected by storms.