Government criticised over match funding promise for flood-hit South Yorkshire communities

The Government has been criticised for putting conditions on funding promised to help those devastated by November’s flooding in South Yorkshire.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:52 pm
The village of Fishlake, Doncaster, submerged under flood water. Photo: SWNS

In a Westminster Hall debate today Barnsley East MP, Labour’s Stephanie Peacock, said the Government had committed to match fund any money raised through the South Yorkshire Community Foundation Relief effort.

B ut questions were asked over why the Government would not commit the £1m available without the community having to raise the same.

Ms Peacock said the recovery effort would cost around £3m. But she said: “On the current match funding formula, the Government will only contribute around half a million pounds.

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“Will they reconsider this? The Government can and should commit to more funds for flood victims, rather than relying on the donations of the very people affected by the flood damage.

“Quite simply put, this is to ensure that the basic needs of all households and businesses can be met.”

She also said those affected had been hit by insurance companies who say their cover was invalid.

She said: “I know many are depending on recovery grants while they wait in hopes of an insurance payout. I know elderly residents who've had to call off life changing surgeries, as they do not have a place to recuperate.

“Cancelled insurance plans and unscrupulous insurance companies have left many residents at their wit's end, unsure of how they're going to get by.”

Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband outlined similar concerns with his constituents.

He said: “While national attention has moved on, over 150 families are still out of their homes. I am receiving emails from constituents every day who are still not able to return to their homes and in desperate circumstances.

“Those without insurance, those whose insurance companies are dragging their feet, elderly constituents on pension credit who are unable to afford their heating bills due to having to use electricity consuming dehumidifiers and residents who are relying on family support to pay exorbitant excesses to insurance companies.”

On the funding he said: “It makes no sense. In fact it is an insult. Over £500,000 has been raised from local businesses and people. Is the Government really saying that unless this gets to £1m it won’t pay out the money?

“In other words the less money is raised from other sources to help the victims, the less Government will pay out.

“Can we imagine a disaster happening overseas in a developing country and the Government only agreeing to contribute if the host country found matching funds? There would rightly be outrage.

“We are not talking about large sums of money, if the Prime Minister’s promises mean anything the Government must increase the funds.”

He also questioned why the Government had not applied to the EU Solidarity Fund, despite the fact the country was leaving the EU.

He said: “In 2007 after the floods the Labour Government applied and successfully received funds to the net benefit of £31m. In 2015 when flooding hit Somerset the Conservative Government successfully applied for £15m worth of funding.

“The flooding happened while we were in the EU, the Government has 12 weeks to apply for the funding, the deadline of which appears to be this Friday.

“My understanding is that all the Government needs to do is to signal an intent to apply by Friday. Can I urge the minister in the strongest terms to do that to at least provide the option to do so?”

Responding on behalf of the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Minister Rebecca Pow said: “I know this will be a little comfort to those who were flooded, but around 22,275 properties nationwide were protected by flood defences in November, including nearly 7,000 properties in Yorkshire alone.

She added: “That's not to take lightly at all what happened this time around, but it is to put that in a bit of a context, less people think no action has been taken.

“Needless to say, it was all devastating, but I do understand that 90 per cent of all those people have been safely returned to their house.”

Ms Pow refused to be drawn on the match funding, instead listing other initiatives the Government had put in place such as grants for residents and businesses, help for farmers, and council tax relief.

She said: “But I wanted to go on to say that this Government is absolutely committed to investing in flood risk to the tune of £2.6bn, and it continues to play a key role in protecting people affected.”

She added: “And I've been asked a number of times about the EU funds, but we're leaving, and we have our own framework for setting into operation a whole raft of measures.”