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Storm Damage Expenditure

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what conclusions he has reached following his consultation with local authorities about the exclusion of storm damage expenditure from grant penalties.

On 21 October I announced that in view of the severe damage caused by the storm on 16 October the Government would make available to local authorities special financial assistance under the Bellwin rules. This meant that the Government would meet 75 per cent. of the costs of eligible works above a threshold.I subsequently made it clear that the threshold proposed for the operation of the Bellwin rules would apply cumulatively to any subsequent emergency for which the Government were prepared to grant special financial assistance during the course of the financial year. To help, where expenditure was not eligible for Bellwin assistance, the Government proposed to make additional capital allocations available.

I also announced that I proposed to exclude from total expenditure—in effect to relieve from grant losses—that 25 per cent. of eligible expenditure above the threshold which authorities would have to meet themselves.

I have consulted local authorities and the associations on my proposal for a total expenditure exclusion and considered very carefully their comments.

For 1987–88, I now propose to widen the exclusion to cover all storm-related revenue expenditure above the threshold defined for Bellwin rules whether eligible for special financial assistance or not, including revenue contributions to capital outlays made by the end of March 1988.

I also propose to exclude from total expenditure all debt charges incurred in respect of capital expenditure on storm damage on 16 October up to the end of March 1989 in 1987–88, 1988–89 and 1989–90, after which grant entitlement will no longer be affected by expenditure.

I shall be consulting the local authorities and associations on these revised proposals.

I have also been asked by local authorities to extend beyond 31 January the date by which work eligible for special financial assistance must be completed. I have therefore decided to extend the date by which work of an emergency nature must be completed to 1 March.