Written statement by Eric Pickles on government action in response to the UK floods
I would like to update the House on further actions the government is taking to provide definitive and ongoing support to those affected by the current severe weather and flooding.
Since the East Coast surge in early December, over 5,600 properties have been flooded across England, including 921 since late January.
In all, over 1.3 million properties have been protected since early December. But for those whose lives continue to be disrupted, the government is taking exceptional action for exceptional circumstances.
The government’s emergency committee, COBR, continues to meet daily to provide a strategic, coordinated response to events so every bit of support is provided to allow people to get back to their normal lives as soon as possible. Officials from my department are present as government liaison officers at the multi-agency command centres in all affected areas, ensuring we have good two-way information flows on what government support is needed and what we can provide. 1,650 military personnel remain at high readiness to do whatever is needed to support residents and businesses in affected communities. My Rt Hon Friend, the Prime Minister, has made clear our response will not stop there.
I am grateful to the Chief Fire Officers Association who are procuring 1,000 carbon monoxide detectors to distribute to households in affected areas and who may be using petrol or diesel pumps to rid their homes of flood water.
Supporting local firms in challenging times
The substantial flooding in the Somerset Levels and elsewhere will take time to subside. But I realise that immediate works need to take place. The government needs to help affected businesses to get through this difficult period. The Prime Minster has announced that the government will be offering relief from business rates for 3 months funded by central government, and will publish more detail shortly.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will set up a new hotline for those who have been affected by flooding and could face difficulties in meeting their liabilities. HMRC will look to offer 3 months additional time to pay - including VAT, Pay As You Earn and corporation tax.
Long term preparedness for homes and buiness
The Prime Minster also announced that the government will offer a £5,000 “Repair and renew” grant for affected homeowners and businesses. This will support repairs which improve a property’s ability to withstand future flooding. The government will consult with local authorities about how this can be delivered, and publish details on eligibility in due course.
I would like to express my continued appreciation to local authorities, the Armed Forces, fire and rescue authorities, and all the other members of local resilience forums including the voluntary and community sector and the tireless work of the Environment Agency’s on-the-ground staff and innumerable others for the work they are doing round the clock to respond to the impacts of the floods and protect affected communities.
I will provide further updates to the House in due course.