By Richard Johnstone | 6 February 2014
Local government secretary Eric Pickles has announced changes to the Bellwin scheme to provide extra assistance to councils hit by the floods and storms in recent months.
In a statement to the House of Commons today, Pickles announced that local authorities would be reimbursed for 100% of the costs above the threshold to claim for the clean-up following recent storms, as opposed to the previous 85%.
In addition, the threshold at which claims can be made – currently set at spending of more than 0.2% of their calculated annual revenue budget on exceptional costs – will be reduced for county councils and unitaries. The period for eligible spending claims will be to the end of March.
Pickles said that no council had yet made a formal claim under the Bellwin provisions, so no town hall would lose out.
‘Indeed, far more councils will now be eligible to claim,’ he told MPs. ‘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.’
He added that the government would shortly complete a review of the Bellwin scheme, as it was clear further reform was needed.
‘We will be undertaking a full review of the Bellwin scheme in due course, while ensuring that councils continue to have the right incentives to stop flooding happening in the first place.’
Pickles told MPs Britain’s flood defences have protected more than 1.2 million properties since December 5, but said the country had been pounded by storms.
‘There is damage to transport infrastructure and sea defences, including the railway line at Dawlish, as well as to power networks. Over 5,000 properties have been flooded, including at least 40 in Somerset.
‘There are currently two severe flood warnings in the West Country, 61 flood warnings and 223 flood alerts in place.’
The government’s Cobra emergency committee has met regularly since January 29 and responded to every local request for assistance, he said.
Extra funding would now be made available. ‘In the short term, I can announce that the government will provide an additional £130m for emergency repairs and maintenance: £30m in the current year and £100m next year.
‘This will cover costs incurred during the current emergency response and recovery, as well as essential repairs to ensure that defences are maintained.’