Work completed on reducing the risk of flooding along Methleigh Bottom

The river that runs alongside Methleigh Bottoms has been prone in the past to flooding. As happened last year when we were subjected to exceptional weather when this area did flood and for a period of time the road was closed. From the river busting its banks a couple of dwellings got flooded. It was mere luck more were not flooded. From this, Porthleven was awarded a pot of money to address this issue, and to repair other damage like the sea wall as a result of the storms.

The main area that was at risk to the river bank flooding has now been extensively repaired with a robust wall being built that should stop the river from breaking its bank.

The new wall to stop flooding

The new wall to stop flooding

This is good news for this area, especially those homes which were at risk or flooding or feared flooding when it rained heavily. As part of the investigation on the causes of flooding, it was found a small culvert was not adequate enough in some cases. However, there was not enough money to do this work too due to the expense of the work required. I am however, working with the agencies to see how funding can be found to address the culvert issue.

Porthleven to receive £40k to address flooding along Methleigh Bottoms

I have received some very good news today as DEFRA (administered by the Environment Agency) has previously awarded the Council £7.547m  to help repair the storm damage from last winter.  This money will be combined the Council’s own matched funding of £1.910m. This is goods news for Porthleven – which was badly affected by the storms – will receive some of this money. In total 67 sites will receive some storm damage funding.

Porthleven will receive £40k from this money to help address the flooding problems along Methleigh Bottoms. For the residents along this road there has been a worry every time there is bad weather will this area flood, and during the storms they were flooded, as they had been in previous years.

I am very pleased the Government has listen to the concerns I raised, along with residents and the Council and has awarded this money to address the problems along Methleigh Bottom. I would also like to praise my colleague Edwina Hannaford as the Portfolio Holder and the officers which pressured the Government for this money.

The good news is work should start on reducing if not completely stopping the flooding in this area very soon. I am just waiting for a schedule of works that will be undertaken. Once I have more details I will let people know

The Moors Flood1

Flooding on the Moors caused by the river along Methleigh Bottoms (2012)

The Moors Flood3

A common site during the bad weather with the road along Methleigh Bottoms closed due to the flooding

The Moors Flood2

Prime Minister’s ‘money is no object’ announcement is nothing more than a ruse

During the height of the storms and floods, the Prime Minister told the country and indeed the world, that money is no object to help communities recover from the unprecedented weather front Cornwall – and other areas – were subjected to.

Now the weather has abated, and we are in a more settled period of weather, the Council and other partners can fully assess the damage inflicted upon the communities. It is bleak, and the full costs are still unknown, but the costs is looking like topping £21m. For Cornwall Council this is made up of £4m revenue, and £17m in capital costs. This can be further broken down by:

  • Highways £5m: revenue £2m and £3m capital
  • Coastal Defence £15m: revenue £1.8m and capital £13.2m
  • Coast Paths/other £1m: £500k for both revenue and capital

    So, what ‘money is no object’ funding streams are available to the Council? In truth, very little. Yes, we have the Bellwin Scheme, but apart from the dates to claim have been extended, the criteria to claim has not changed. The scheme can only be used to:

  • only to prevent loss of life/damage to property
  • prevent suffering or severe inconvenience
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    Futhermore, the Council will have to pay the first £887k excess. The potential claim by the Council is still be assessed, but early indications are approx £2m eligible spend. So in pounds, shillings and pence will mean out of the £2m, the Bellwin Scheme will only pay out £1.23m.

    The critical point is that the criteria have not changed and therefore the majority of the estimated £21m worth of damage will remain unfunded by Central Government. So much for ‘money is no object.’ This means the repair bill will have to be found from elsewhere and/or from within the Council’s own budget.

    It gets worse, as the promised £130m EA money will have little impact in Cornwall. It is good news for Somerset, as they will get £10m. A further £30m will be for EA assests. Priority is based on assets in the EA asset database. Which for Cornwall is only one, the rock-armour off Newlyn. The £130m will also not cover Coastal Assets just flood (fluvial) defence. To put it bluntly, Cornwall will not be at the top of the funding, or actually get any help.

    Our roads in Cornwall have also been badly affected by the weather. Credit must go to Cormac who have worked to address the many issues. However, the Governments announcement of £140m for Highways will be allocated on a formula basis to all Local Authorities. And as yet, those allocations are unknown, though I am told should be known shortly.

    The Leader of the Council, John Pollard has written to the Prime Minister highlighting the concern and extra financial pressures the Council now faces. The Leader has also written to the Secretary of State for Farming, Food and Rural Affairs to again highlight the European Fisheries Fund’s storm damage gear replacement scheme as over bureaucratic, with claim forms running to 21 pages. Plus having to submit business cases and three quotes. However, the real kick in the teeth on this funding is you cannot purchase lost gear until you have receive a letter from the MMO saying you can purchase it. I highlighted this in a previous blog HERE

    The position Cornwall Council is difficult, it is looking at a huge bill of repair and recovery which it can little afford without changes and severe impact on the budget. It is all well and good for the Government to roll out a series of measures to help and think they have done their jobs, but those measures have to actually mean something, and more importantly have real funding attached to them.

    So my message to the Prime Minister and Government is help is needed in Cornwall to recover from the weather. Without help, things are going to get very difficult for Cornwall Council.

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    Advice and funding for those who have suffered flood and storm damage

    Now we have had a few days respite from the onslaught of the weather and take stock of the damage it has caused, the question by those affected is there any help from the Government and the Council. The short answer is yes, but as you would imagine, it not straight forward. For my area, Porthleven, I am collating details on the damage and the cost of repair so it can be included in any Council bid – like the Bellwin Scheme.

    The Government has set up a helpline to provide comprehensive advice and support to small and medium size enterprises (SME). The helpline offers a free one hour call with a dedicated business support advisor to help businesses get back on their feet. As well as providing free dedicated business advice, information is also available via the helpline on who to contact about pay, tax, employment rights or disputes, company registration or insolvency.

    The number for the advice line is : 0300 456 3565

    There is also help from the following:

    UK Storm Business Relief Fund

    Set up by NatWest and RBS Banks with a £250million fund to issue interest free loans to small businesses affected by the storms and floods. Loans are available to any business affected, that do not need to be customers of either bank, and is on a first come first served basis. UK Storms Helpline: 0800 529 8544. Help is also available in your local branch of NatWest or RBS banks from their Relationship Managers. More information is available online at www.business.natwest.com and www.business.rbs.co.uk

    Government Business Support Scheme

     The Government has announced a new Business Support Scheme worth up to £10 million. The scheme is in addition to the three-month rate relief and the £5,000 ‘Repair and Renew’ grants. Details of eligibility, criteria and how to apply will be published I am told very soon, maybe this week.

    Government ‘Repair and Renew’ grants

    There is a new grant scheme to help homes and businesses affected by the winter storms. Individual grants of up to £5,000 are available to help pay for repairs, not covered by insurance, which improve a property’s ability to withstand future flooding. More information and advice on applying for a Repair and Renew grant is available online www.gov.uk

    Business rate relief

    All affected businesses will be able to apply to their local authority for three months business rate relief. Details on the application process and eligibility will be announced by the Government shortly and more information is available on the Government website: www.gov.uk/government/news/new-measures-to-help-communities-hit-by-flooding#business-relief

    Help for fishermen

     

    The Fishermen’s Mission has launched an urgent appeal to raise funds to help fishermen who have been affected by the storms. More information is available on their website: www.fishermensmission.org.uk. I am told there is £50,000 available.

    Help for farmers

    The Government has announced it will make up to £10 million available for a one-off grant scheme designed to support farm businesses. The scheme is to restore flooded agricultural land and bring it back into production as quickly as possible. More information is available on the Government website: www.gov.uk/government/news/new-measures-to-help-communities-hit-by-flooding#farmers-fund

    More information about grants to help people and businesses affected by storms and flood damage is available on Cornwall Council’s website: www.cornwall.gov.uk/floodfunding

    I will update as I know more.

     

    Cornwall Council counts the cost of the floods

    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!