After a week of extreme weather and truly dreadful flooding, I wanted to update you on the help the Government is providing to those who have been affected.
The Government will be announcing further detail on how to apply for the following schemes by the end of next week:
• For those homeowners and businesses which have been affected by flooding, we will provide repair grants of up to £5,000 per house and per business to help people build in better flood protection as they repair their homes and businesses.
• Those businesses which have been affected by the floods will get 100 per cent business rate relief for three months and will get an extra three months to pay the business taxes they owe.
• Farmers who are suffering from water-logged fields will be able to benefit from a £10 million fund which will help to restore farm land as quickly as possible. DEFRA will open applications at the end of February.
• We have also secured a total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods.
I have also made it clear to local councils that they should not charge for sandbags in flood-hit areas – where needed, central government will pick up the cost.
We are continuing to take action across the board to ensure that everything that can be done is being done. This includes delivering extra pumps and sandbags; a commitment to dredging – including in Somerset; deploying the military wherever they are needed, with thousands already working on the ground or on standby; and providing additional support for local emergency services. We have also told energy companies to stand up the people necessary to get those homes which have lost power reconnected as quickly as possible.
And following its first meeting yesterday, the new Cabinet Committee on floods agreed a series of reviews to inform the long-term flood recovery plan so that our country is more resilient for the future:
• A review of the Bellwin scheme which provides emergency financial assistance to local authorities during exceptional circumstances, to consider whether the arrangements for providing funding to compensate local authorities for the costs of emergency measures are fit for purpose;
• A targeted review of the resilience of the transport network to extreme weather events;
• A review of investment decision guidelines on flood defences;
• An annual resilience review to consider the local, regional and national response to extreme weather situations and make recommendations for the Government’s long and short-term resilience strategy.
Amidst all of this, as is so often the case, in the toughest of times we are seeing the best of Britain. Visiting the affected areas this week, I saw the incredible hard work and dedication of our emergency services, the Environment Agency, local authority workers, councils and armed forces. I also saw the most inspiring community spirit amongst the many volunteers who are rolling up their sleeves and helping out those in need.
We want to assure all those who have been affected by this extreme weather that everything that needs to be done will be done and that the money that is needed for this relief effort will be available. We are working to get our country back on its feet and we will build a more resilient country for the future.
Detail of floods announcements
‘Repair and renew’ grant for all affected homeowners and businesses
• The £5,000 grant will provide financial support for households and businesses to pay for repairs which improve a property’s ability to withstand future flooding.
• DCLG will shortly come forward with details of eligibility and how homes and businesses can apply.
• All affected businesses will be able to apply to their local authority to get business rate relief for three months.
• Further detail will be announced by the end of next week on the application process and eligibility.
• HMRC will also set up a new hotline for those who have been affected by flooding and may have difficulties in meeting their tax liabilities.
• In all cases HMRC will look to offer up to 3 months additional time to pay. This will cover all taxes owed to HMRC, including VAT, PAYE and corporation tax.
£10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields
• The Government will make available up to £10 million for a one-off grant scheme designed to support farm businesses to restore flooded agricultural land and bring it back into production as quickly as possible.
• The fund will also help farmers introduce lasting and sustainable flood prevention measures to help secure future production once land is restored.
• Grants will provide up to 80% of the cost of removal of flood debris from agricultural land, improving drainage, restoring access tracks, restoring grassland, longer-term planning and design of prevention measures.
• The fund will be open for applications by the end of February. We will keep the application window open for as long as possible given uncertainty around flood water levels receding.
• The scheme will be open to all farm businesses that require support but will be targeted at those areas most affected by the flood crisis.
• DEFRA will announce further details and a single point of contact (for email, post and telephone) shortly.
A total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods
• The packages include a mixture of repayment holidays, reduced or waived fees, loan extensions, increased flexibility of terms, and additional specialist support teams deployed on the ground.
• This support is being made available to businesses, farmers and individual customers in affected areas.
• RBS have announced a £250 million interest free loan fund for affected businesses, and have extended this with an offer of repayment holidays for mortgage customers. Lloyds and Barclays have announced financial packages of around £250 million each. HSBC, Santander and Nationwide have also announced extensive programmes of support for their affected business and individual customers.
• Rail resilience projects: The Department for Transport will provide £31 million to fund 10 rail resilience projects in the South West to improve resilience to flooding, including works at Cowley Bridge in Exeter. Network Rail will undertake work at the following locations: Cowley Bridge Junction; Chipping Sodbury; Hinksey; Whiteball Tunnel South; Athley – Cogload; Hele Bradninch; Flax Bourton; Patchway up Tunnel; Earthworks strengthening at Honioton and Crewkerne. Network Rail will also install rainfall, river flow and groundwater monitoring around Cowley Bridge Junction and Chipping Sodbury.
• Funding for local authorities: The Department for Transport will provide £30 million of additional funding for local authorities in England affected by the severe weather for road maintenance, including pothole repairs. This is in addition to the £3.5 million transport element of the £7 million flood recovery package announced on 17 January.
• Industry resilience meetings: The Prime Minister has tasked the Transport Secretary to work with bus and coach industry and other public transport operators to ensure that all necessary extra services are in place for the areas currently affected, and to plan for any further capacity required should the severe weather continue and affect other parts of the country.
• The Prime Minister chaired the first meeting on Thursday. The Committee’s Terms of Reference are ‘To provide strategic ministerial oversight of policy on flood recovery and long-term resilience’.