Fears over huge repair bill that could face taxpayers

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A YORKSHIRE MP will meet the Floods Minister to discuss concern that local taxpayers will be forced to meet the cost of roads and bridges damaged in this year’s devastating floods.

Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, will look to meet with Richard Benyon at the earliest opportunity after it emerged councils will not be compensated for the damage to local infrastructure caused by flooding earlier this summer.

The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month that North Yorkshire County Council will have to find almost £2m from its own depleted reserves to repair the widespread damage caused by floods earlier this summer.

The Government said it provides financial assistance for emergency measures through the Bellwin scheme, but not the cost of infrastructure repair work.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Smith said: “Having been hit particularly badly earlier in the year and now with these floods, North Yorkshire county council is very worried about capital expenditure not being included in the compensation scheme.”

Ministers also came under attack from Labour over cuts to the flood defence budget.

The coalition has implemented a so-called “partnership model” for funding flood repairs, where it expects local communities to find a significant portion of any new flood defence works.

Mary Creagh, the Shadow Environment Minister and MP for Wakefield, said: “We know that every pound invested in flood defences saves £8 in costs further down the line, yet this Government have cut capital spending on flood defences by 30 per cent from the 2010 baseline.

“They are spending less on flood defences now than we were five years ago in 2007. As a result, 294 flood defence schemes have been deferred or cancelled.

“Will the Secretary of State resist any pressure from the Treasury to cut flood defence spending in the next spending review?”

But Environment Secretary Owen Paterson insisted the Government is pushing ahead with a “major programme of flood defence schemes”.

“We are putting (a) huge sum of money into flood defence schemes and encouraging partnerships with local government and, on the ground, with individuals and farmers, working with local drainage boards and councils to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach,” he said.

“Our (spending) reduction is six per cent over the whole spending round, compared with what Labour spent over its spending round.

“Our partnership scheme is really working, and a range of schemes that were just on the threshold and did not make the cut will now go ahead.”