Why new Chancellor Rishi Sunak could be an ally for flood-hit Yorkshire

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Flood-hit communities in Yorkshire may have an ally in the form of newly-appointed Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has lobbied on behalf of victims of last summer's flash floods in the Dales.

As recently as last month. the Richmond MP said he was talking to members of Boris Johson's Cabinet about getting extra financial help for dozens of residents and businesses in his largely rural patch.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Pic: Getty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Pic: Getty

The downpour last summer flooded 250 homes, 35 farms and at least 40 businesses in the Reeth, Langthwaite, Fremington, Grinton, Bellerby and Leyburn areas.

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In total some £5m in government funding has been secured for farmers, bridge and road reconstruction and to reimburse Richmondshire District Council for their immediate recovery costs.

But Mr Sunak said last month that he was exploring whether match funding of money raised locally for victims and grants from the Property Flood Resilience Recovery Support Scheme could provide further support.

Other areas of the UK hit by floods have benefited in the past from the two schemes, usually triggered when a threshold for the numbers of properties affected is reached.

Mr Sunak, who until this week was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was among those who successfully lobbied for the Government's Bellwin emergency financial assistance scheme to be activated in aid of Richmondshire council.

It was argued that although the affected area of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Wensleydale was small geographically, the impact on residents, businesses and farmers was so great that the Bellwin scheme should be set up for the emergency.

The council claimed £180,762 for the costs it incurred in dealing with the aftermath of the flooding, including hiring contractors to clear Arkle and Grinton becks.

Council leader Angie Dale said at the time: “We are delighted that our claim to the Bellwin scheme has been met in full – and are grateful of the help Rishi gave in achieving this.

"Our past experience of the scheme has not been good but central government has clearly recognised the devastation caused by the July floods – on local people and businesses, and therefore the local economy."

In August, Mr Sunak described making the case to Farming Minister George Eustice, this week promoted to the role of Environment Secretary, about the need for flexibility for farmers affected by the floods.

Under rules governing the vital Basic Payment Scheme, Countryside and Environmental Stewardship schemes, eligibility could be affected by land not being available for productive use. But the Rural Payments Agency later issued guidance for affected farmers on how to protect their eligibility.