As announced by the Prime Minister the Government are enhancing the terms of the Bellwin scheme to help local authorities in England meet the immediate costs associated with protecting lives and properties in response to the recent severe weather events and the east coast tidal surge.
The changes for the Bellwin scheme will be:
Bellwin grant to be paid at 100% above threshold instead of 85%;
Extension of the eligible spending period until the end of March 2014;
Reduced Bellwin thresholds for all county councils and unitary authorities; and
An additional measure to allow upper-tier authorities with responsibility for fire to claim Bellwin on a comparable basis to stand-alone fire authorities for fire-related costs.
Bellwin grant reimburses local authorities for costs incurred on, or in connection with, their immediate actions to safeguard life and property or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience as a result of a disaster or emergency in their area.
The standard Bellwin scheme provides for reimbursement of eligible costs at 85% above a threshold—of 0.2% of the authority’s net revenue budget. The threshold recognises that councils have a long-established responsibility to prepare cover for unforeseen events. Beyond that level, Bellwin comes into play.
The enhanced scheme terms reflect the exceptional nature of the recent weather events and the challenges facing local authorities in their role as first responders.
The changes to the Bellwin scheme terms will apply to applications relating to the severe weather events in England from 5 December 2013 to date. Revised terms and thresholds will be issued to all local authorities who have registered or who continue to register for Bellwin assistance from these events.
For the longer term I am committed, along with colleagues from across Whitehall, to undertake a review of the Bellwin scheme to assess what changes may be needed to its operation in the light of more frequent and challenging weather events.
Support for other parts of the United Kingdom is a matter for the devolved Administrations.
I would like to put on record again my thanks to all of those emergency responders, local authorities and charitable organisations who have worked to protect and support flood affected communities throughout this time. I will continue to update the House on recovery progress.