March 12 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Monday, January 27, 2014
The government’s “acid test” will be to actually deliver money to flood-hit communities, a Norfolk council leader has said following a gathering in London in the aftermath of the tidal surges.
North Norfolk District Council leader Tom Fitzpatrick praised flooding minister Brandon Lewis and the Department for Communities and Local Government for its support, but said the council was still waiting to see how much money it would actually get back.
Mr Lewis, who is also MP for Great Yarmouth, met representatives from Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent councils in the first of seven local authority meetings following the floods to hear their concerns.
He said that he had set out the details of what he thought was a “really good package of support”, but added: “I said that if local authorities had issues outside Bellwin they should come to talk to us and we will look at those issues. I can’t make any promises. We are all living in tight financial times, but we will look at those.”
Mr Fitzpatrick, whose council faces a £3m clear up bill, which could eat up 85pc to 90pc of its general reserves without government help, said he had spoken to DCLG within a few hours of the floods in early December, and they had been very helpful in keeping them up to date about what help was available.
“But I think the acid test will be when we see how much money we get,” he added.
He said: “I was pleased with the response we had in North Norfolk. We got to work and repaired infrastructure because we are a tourism area. We have got to get it looking good quickly if people are booking their holidays.”
West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney who was also at the meeting said that he did feel the government was doing enough.
“I think it is always very difficult. People always expect so much very quickly. There is a quite a clear understanding of what a serious situation this is, and I believe they are on the case.”
Meanwhile Suffolk County Council faces a £150,000 bill for the flooding clean-up. Its leader Mark Bee quizzed flooding minister Brandon Lewis about whether any help could be sought from central government, as under the current rules of the government’s Bellwin Scheme the Suffolk authority would miss out on compensation.
Mr Bee said: “They have got these rules, but clearly there is flexibility at the moment. This was the worst flooding incident since 1953 and clearly there has got to be that flexibility. We had an agreement from the minister that he would look at it. There was no firm promise, but that is better than a no in my view.”
He also told Mr Lewis that a long-term solution to the cost of repairing the A12 after flooding needed to be found, with storm surges set to become a more common occurrence.