First thing I am sure we can agree on is without the swift response of the emergency services, Police, organisations like the EA and South West Water, and the public helping, the floods would have been a lot worse. Cornwall Council should also hold its head high in the way it organised and run Silver Control; which is the name of the command centre that coordinated most of the response to the problems. Many council staff like those from the call centre who also came in and helped during the crisis. Sadly now, the council now has to pick up the costs of the torrent of water Cornwall was subjected to.
For Cornwall’s Fire and Rescue Service it amounts to over £91,000, with major appliances and pumping appliances committed to over 360 hours of being in attendance and on-duty. For the council’s Highway Department, the cost to our roads has passed the £3 million mark. This department of the council is already under difficult budgetary pressures without having to find a further few million.
In total the cost to the council so far is £3.2 million. I expect this to rise, and may even reach the £4 million mark once a full and detailed assessment has been completed. These figures exclude the cost to businesses and personal property, which is no doubt very high. However, the council does not have to fund (to a point) all this themselves, as there is something called the Bellwin Scheme. This allows the Government to provide financial assistance to local authorities where a Council has to incur expenditure through having to take immediate action to safeguard property or life or prevent suffering or severe inconvenience. However, total expenditure on these activities must exceed 0.2% of a Council’s Net Revenue Budget before being eligible. In Cornwall Council’s case the threshold is £1.410 million.
There is though a sting in the tail, as it is unlikely that much of this spending will be eligible for Bellwin. As most is reinstatement of highways and other infrastructure and capital expenditure of this nature is specifically excluded from the scheme. The council has, along with Cornwall’s MPs, asked the Secretary of State back in November 2010 to review the thresholds in the scheme for, but the Secretary of State refused to change the scheme. And to add to the council’s pain, it has again asked the Department of Communities and Local Government to alter the scheme. The reply was no. Let’s hope the Government realises this oversight, and gives those council’s and area affected by the severe weather additional funding. But I lets not hold our breath, as even a pearl diver could not hold their breath that long!