Last summer’s exceptional floods caused widespread damage and misery for thousands of people. But the response was equally exceptional—from local authorities and other local agencies, the police, fire and rescue services, the military and neighbours helping each other. Government have been committed to playing our part and we have already made up to £88 million available so far to flood-hit communities to support their efforts to get back on their feet.
The costs of the floods to the country were significant. That is why in August we submitted an application to the European Union solidarity fund, which was set up specifically to help countries that have experienced extensive damage from natural disasters such as floods. We have worked closely with the Commission on this application and I can confirm that the European Commission gave clearance for the funding to be paid to the UK when it approved the amended EU budget on 7 April. I welcome this clearance and recognise the key role played by Commissioner Hübner in the EU’s decision to approve our UK application.
The European Commission’s clearance was for payment of around £110 million as a contribution to the cost of recovery from last summer’s floods. However, the UK’s special “abatement mechanism”, agreed between Government and the EU and in place since 1984, means that the net value to the UK of this allocation is an extra £31 million.
I therefore announce today that all this extra funding will be paid to flood-affected local areas. The money will be distributed through a new one-off £30.6 million restoration fund to local authorities, police authorities and fire authorities in England, with the balance allocated to the Northern Irish and Welsh devolved Administrations. I propose that eligibility for payments from the new fund will be based on the costs incurred in dealing with the flood problems since the summer and that local authorities will be free to spend this money according to the local priorities they determine. I am starting a short consultation on this basis today.
The restoration fund will mean the Government have made up to £118 million available so far to local areas hit by last summer’s floods.
The Government will account for the spending of the EUSF payment directly to the European Commission so that local authorities eligible for payments from the new fund will not have to deal with the strict rules that govern EUSF and can concentrate on the job of leading the full recovery efforts in their communities.