Local authorities pick up £250m cost of winter floods

Councils across the UK need more financial support from the Government to enable local authorities and their communities to recover from the winter flooding, according to a new report from the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA research reveals that nearly £250m in damage was caused to key infrastructure such as roads, bridges and drainage systems by the winter’s flood, while the final bill could be significantly higher.

New flood defence funding should be devolved by Government to local areas, with councils working with communities and businesses to ensure money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs, the LGA says.

Estimates reveal that local authorities have been landed with a bill of more than £2.25m in landfill tax after councils removed an average of 1.66 tonnes of household goods and freezer waste from 16,500 homes and businesses.

Councils are calling for all landfill tax, calculated at just over £82 per tonne, to be returned to local taxpayers and invested back into projects that will support local jobs and growth.

Financial support

LGA’s environment, economy, housing and transport board chair councillor Peter Box suggests a range of measures that include allowing local authorities to keep landfill tax and devolving new flood defence funding to local areas.

He said: “Government has gone a long way to helping hard-hit communities get back on their feet. But it is clear more financial support will be needed for councils. Councils continue to give their all for flood-hit areas. The sense of community spirit across the country and huge efforts of council staff who have worked long hours and with little rest has been inspirational.

“Even now, council staff are still preparing for the possibility of further severe storms to ensure the safety of residents, homes and businesses, shore up flood defences, and protect road networks and power supplies as much as possible.”

Some of the worst affected areas include Cumbria, where council owned infrastructure and assets were hit by a total of £175m worth of damage, and Northumberland which required £24m on bridges, landslips, roads and drainage.

Flood defence spending

Earlier this month, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) unveiled its five-year plans which revealed that the Department will invest £2.3bn by 2021 to better protect more than 300,000 homes.

In response to these proposals, the Government’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee issued a special report raising concern that Defra’s requirement to find reductions of 15% in resource budgets over the next four years could affect vital flood protection work.

However, fears were alleviated somewhat in the 2016 Budget when Chancellor George Osborne announced an additional increase to spending on flood defence and resilience to the tune of £700m by 2020/21.

George Ogleby

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