A COUNCIL leader has accused the Prime Minister of failing to provide adequate financial support to flood victims in Yorkshire in the wake of announcements that millions of pounds of Government money will be going to those recently affected in the south and south west of the country.
Tim Swift, Labour leader of Calderdale Council, has written to David Cameron to challenge the decision to provide extra help this winter when the same support wasn’t made available when 900 properties were affected by flooding in Calderdale in 2012.
He has asked the Prime Minister to provide backdated funding but despite Mr Cameron personally leading the response to the flooding crisis in the south, Downing Street declined to comment on the plea from Yorkshire.
Coun Swift’s intervention came as Mr Cameron confirmed the Treasury would fund local authorities which provided council tax rebates to those recently flooded out of their homes.
In his letter, the council leader said: “I understand that the scale and scope of the current flooding in the South and South West has led to huge media attention and public pressure, and Calderdale residents will have every sympathy with those now struggling with the kind of issues that we experienced in 2012 and 2013.
“None the less, we are deeply disappointed and let down that we did not receive the same scale of support that is now being offered elsewhere – especially given the uneven distribution of reductions in Government spending which means that Calderdale has faced much larger cuts in our spending power than many councils in the South and South West.
“If there is to be Government assistance to people and communities affected by flooding, then surely this should be on a consistent and understood basis? I am therefore writing to request that even at this late stage, you consider extending the grant offer and changes to Bellwin which have now been announced and applying them retrospectively to areas such as Calderdale who were so badly affected in 2012.”
Asked for a response from Mr Cameron, Downing Street handed the matter on to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) who said the Government had reimbursed councils for “100 per cent of the clean-up costs” in 2012 under the controversial Bellwin Scheme used to calculate compensation paid to flood-hit communities.
Under the scheme Calderdale received around £80,000 and other badly affected areas of Yorkshire received nothing at all.
A spokesman added: “A joint working group, including the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and the local community, is considering a range of options for reducing the risk of flooding in the area.”
Defra has previously announced that households, businesses and farms flooded since December 5 last year will be entitled to apply for grants of up to £5,000 for new flood resilience measures. Businesses would also be able to defer tax payments and apply for 100 per cent relief on their rates.
The Government has also announced a review of the Bellwin Scheme and a £10m fund has also been set up specifically to support farmers hit by flooding since the beginning of December.
The support will benefit hundreds of properties and thousands of acres of farmland across East Yorkshire flooded in the UK’s biggest tidal surge in 60 years in December but will do nothing to help those affected previously.
Mr Cameron visited Wales and Somerset yesterday during a tour of flood-hit areas and confirmed central funding to support council tax rebates.
A £4m fund will be made available to English councils who give residents a rebate while they are out of their homes – enough to cover at least a three-month bill for everyone affected.
Somerset County Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council in south Buckinghamshire have begun schemes to reduce the council tax burden for flood victims.