I would like to pay tribute to the superb work that local authorities, local resilience forums, the voluntary and community sector and the Environment Agency, have done, to protect communities impacted by recent storms and for the work they continue to do to help them return to normality.
I am pleased to announce today that the Government are making £6.7 million available to help local authorities in England to recover from the impact of the recent severe weather. The Department for Communities and Local Government is providing £3.2 million and the Department for Transport £3.5 million to the severe weather recovery support package.
This support, which is funded through reprioritised existing budgets, will offer local councils the opportunity to apply for additional resources to support recovery efforts in areas affected by the severe weather. It will help communities recover and repair damage to sections of the local highway network in affected areas.
I appreciate many local authorities are still undertaking clean-up operations and it will take some time to assess damage, particularly to their transport infrastructure.
The funding for roads announced today is in addition to the £3.4 billion the Department for Transport is providing to local highway authorities between 2011 to 2015 on highways maintenance which could also be used for road repairs.
I will set clear expectations for results to be achieved with these funds, and local authorities will have a key role in identifying priorities for assistance and for working closely with communities and businesses to enable this to happen. Departmental officials are working to finalise arrangements for the allocation of this money and will write to local authority chief executives shortly to confirm the availability of the funds and the application process.
The recovery support package announced today is in addition to financial assistance the Government will make available through the Bellwin scheme to local authorities to assist with the immediate costs associated with these events.
In terms of support for businesses, I recognise that temporary cash flow may be a particular issue for affected businesses and help is available through measures that apply UK wide:
HMRC will consider any request for a time to pay extension for customers affected by the recent flooding. Each case is treated on its own merits and affected individuals should contact HMRC at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss their payment options.
Advice on managing cash flow is available on: www.gov.uk and the business support helpline continues to offer support to businesses on a wide range of issues.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills continues to work with the banks to support lending to small businesses including the enterprise finance guarantee scheme which guarantees loans to viable businesses lacking the collateral or track record for a standard bank loan.
I welcome RBS and NatWest’s decision to launch a £250 million interest-free loan fund to support business affected by the severe weather.
The costs of repairing flood defences damaged by the extreme weather are currently being assessed, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will address this in a few weeks in his report to Parliament on floods funding.
Funding from the recovery support package can be used to cover costs above and beyond those met by Bellwin, insurance, and existing central and local Government obligations. Local authorities in England that experienced damage during the recent severe weather and east coast tidal surge can apply for support from the funding package announced today.
Support for other parts of the United Kingdom is a matter for the devolved Administrations.