Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Cornwall's £14 million floods bill

The latest estimate for the cost of the flooding and bad weather in Cornwall is around £14 million. But that amount is likely to rise further as bad weather is going to be with us for the next few days at least.

The £14m figure is made up of £4 million for the immediate response to the flooding and £10 million for the long term repair work - mainly rebuilding walls and repairing roads. The good news is that Cornwall has qualified for 'Bellwin scheme' funding for our response work. This means we can claim 85% of the amount we have spent over the trigger amount of £1.4 million. But this doesn't touch the £10 million structural repair bill.

At PMQs today, the Prime Minister responded to a question from Cornish Lib Dem MP Andrew George to promise reform of the Bellwin scheme so that large unitary councils like Cornwall will not lose out. That's great news and we look forward to getting more details.

(UPDATE: The government has announced that they are changing the Bellwin scheme to pay 100% of the amount above the qualifying threshold as well as lowering the threshold itself.) 

We've also heard today that the Prime Minister is pledging £100 million for flood relief nationwide. That sounds like a huge amount, but we don't know the details and is likely to be only a proportion of the final UK bill. But he also said that there would be no limit to help on offer. So we will take him at his word and trust that the Government will help Cornwall out to make sure that all the necessary repairs can be done.

The next step needs to be a meeting with the relevant ministers - probably local government minister Brandon Lewis and environment minister (our own) Dan Rogerson - to get the details of the help on offer and to make the formal request for assistance. We won't know Cornwall's final bill for a while, but the sooner we can start the detailed discussions, the better. Through my informal conversations with both ministers already, I know they are keen to help.

But there are wider problems that affect Cornwall. The huge damage to the rail line at Dawlish will effectively cut off one of Cornwall's primary links to the rest of the UK. Reports as to the time it will take to put right vary from 6 weeks to 6 months. Of course we need to get the line repaired as soon as possible, but we also need a plan for the future where Cornwall's rail link is not put at risk every time there is bad weather. I don't know whether that solution will be via Dawlish or some new route, but it is important that the government recognises the need for a long term solution and local MPs are having a meeting with the Transport minister this evening.

UPDATE - really pleased that both the Transport Secretary and Network Rail have promised to look into alternative routes and that the company is putting 'heavy muscle' into repairing the Dawlish section in the meantime. Many thanks to Devon and Cornwall MPs from all parties for working together on this.

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