10 November 2000
Authorities mounting clean-up operations after the deluges were told on November 6 that they will automatically qualify for government assistance to cover their extra costs and will no longer have to argue their case. Once councils have spent above their 'trigger' threshold they will be able to claim back 100% of the excess rather than the present 85% limit.
Prescott also pledged that his ministry, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, would settle all claims within 15 working days and added that in some circumstances authorities would be able to claim money before they had spent it.
Claims of up to £10,000 would be accepted without an audit report, he added. 'We intend to improve the working of the Bellwin system, which exists to help local authorities who incur unexpected costs,' Prescott said. '(This) will help people and local authorities cope with the weather difficulties.'
He also confirmed that once the immediate crisis was over, the government would undertake a full review of the system involving representatives from councils, the Environment Agency and other interested parties. The first meeting is scheduled to take place on December 4.
The Local Government Association, which has been calling for an overhaul of the Bellwin formula, described Prescott's announcement as encouraging. 'We welcome the increase in cost refunds and the swifter refund period. We are talking to local authorities to see what the situation is and will then put forward our ideas,' a spokeswoman said.