Thursday, 14 January 2010

Launceston set for flood works

Low lying properties in Newport are set to get vital flood protection works starting in two years time. The scheme is one of those that has been approved by the South West Regional Flood Defence Committee whose meeting I attended yesterday.

The scheme will cost around £400,000 in total and will protect a number of properties near to the River Kensey.

Although flooding from the Kensey has not been a major problem in recent years, it is always a threat and levels have been worryingly close to bursting point as recently as November. The works will provide a high degree of reassurance for local people.

The money for the scheme will come from the Government in the form of a 'grant in aid'. The meeting yesterday was to approve the range of schemes that would be funded and other schemes in Cornwall that will benefit from Government funding include:

Bodmin Town Leat Band Hall Screen
Bude Flood Defence Refurbishment Project
Bude Weir Refurbishment
Crackington Haven

as well as various other schemes across the county.

But the committee deferred a decision on locally funded schemes for the time being. These are flood projects that are paid for directly out of our council tax, rather than by the Government. The South West Flood Defence Committee covers all of Devon as well as Cornwall and councillors from both counties felt that they needed more information before they could agree the amount to be charged to taxpayers.

Council tax payers in Devon and Cornwall currently pay about 80p per household per year for flood works. This is below the average nationwide (which is about £1.74 per household) and massively below the highest which is more than £3.20. Of course you get what you pay for and the low level of the local levy means that few schemes can be afforded. The options in front of the committee yesterday were for levy rises of 2.5% (about the rate of inflation), 50% and 100%. The latter two would mean that we would build towards having a local levy close to the national average.

Because we did not have all the information in front of us about what benefits such a large increase in levy would bring, I agreed with the request to postpone a decision.

It should be noted, however, that the local charge is absorbed in the council budget, rather than added on to your council tax bill as the precept from a parish or town council is. So a big increase in the local levy would not automatically mean higher council tax bills, but other services would have to be cut to pay for an increase.

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