Eric Pickles' written statement to Parliament about ongoing flood response and recovery work.
I wish to update the House on the government’s ongoing work on flood response and recovery.
Since the East Coast surge in early December, over 6,480 properties have been flooded across England, but over the same period more than 1.3 million properties have been protected by flood protection measures. According to local Gold commanders, 2,600 homes have been flooded since the start of January, and a further 7,000 have been cut off by flood water or have lost access to services. COBR has been meeting to monitor the continuing threat of groundwater flooding and progress in Somerset. As weather patterns return to those more usual for the time of year, coastal and river flood risk is diminishing.
Locally, the transition to recovery is underway and most local areas have convened recovery meetings. The Ministerial Recovery Group is coordinating government support to local areas and infrastructure owners and operators to enable a return to normality as quickly as possible.
Government support for recovery
The government is providing a range of funding packages to help the country recover from this severe weather, and over the last week, the full set of arrangements have been confirmed. Information can be found here.
The package of support includes:
- the £37 million Severe Weather Recovery Scheme to support communities and contribute to highway infrastructure repairs in affected areas
- the Repair and Renewal grant scheme for homes and business providing up to £5,000 to improve properties’ ability to withstand future flooding
- £4 million of central government funding for Council Tax relief for flood-affected homes
- central government funding for 100% business rate relief for 3 months for flood-affected businesses
- the £10 million Farming Recovery Fund to support farm businesses to restore flooded agricultural land and bring it back into production as quickly as possible
- the £10 million Business Support scheme providing hardship funding for small and medium businesses
- the £130 million Defra/Environment Agency Scheme for repairs and rebuilding of flood defence assets; work has already commenced on those defences with the highest priorities
- the enhanced Bellwin Scheme that I announced to the House on 13 February
Private sector and voluntary sector support
We are also grateful for support offered by the private sector. Banks have offered financial support to businesses and personal customers, while other businesses have given practical help. There have also been numerous generous offers of support from community groups. Government has been working to make sure that these offers can reach the areas that need them. The National Farmers’ Union reported the fantastic response of the farming community after setting up a centre to redistribute fodder to farmers who have lost theirs due to flooding – it has been overwhelmed by offers of support.
Enhancing insurance cover
On 18 February, ministers met with the insurance industry to hear how they intend to help people and businesses affected by the recent severe weather. They informed us that 2,000 loss adjusters stand ready to support those flooded and we will be holding regular meetings to review progress and to find solutions to any issues arising on the ground.
To ensure that we take a longer term view on this work the Prime Minister is now chairing the Cabinet Committee on Flooding to coordinate strategic long-term plans on flood recovery and flood resilience. More broadly, there will be further lessons to be learnt across government and its agencies. Gold commanders maintain a state of readiness to respond to future flooding should the risk increase again in coming weeks.
Ministers will continue to update the House on progress.