Headlines: July 9th, 2007

 

The Treasury is to make changes to the Bellwin scheme, which provides emergency financial aid to local authorities to help meet the cost of of immediate action to safeguard life or property. Officials will also have a high level meeting this week with the Association of British Insurers to discuss the industry’s approach to meeting the expected 1.5 billion pounds in claims as a result of recent floods.

The proposed changes to the Bellwin scheme are special arrangements in response to the floods. They will see a tripling of the period from two months to six during which local authorities are eligible to claim and increasing the proportion of costs they can claim to 100 per cent. The changes are part of a package of measures announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in response to the floods. He also unveiled a 14 million pound package of assistance in addition to the support available under the Bellwin measures. The package includes ten million pounds to local authorities in flood hit areas, three million from the Department for Transport to meet claims from councils for the cost of repairing roads and bridges and a contingency reserve of a million pounds to meet additional grant applications covering such items as replacement of essential household items.

Tuesday’s meeting with the ABI will involve the Local Government Minister John Healey, who is also now Flood Recovery Minister, Treasury Minister Kitty Usher and Environment Minister Phil Woolas. Mr. Brown paid tribute to all those who had responded to the floods locally. “The emergency and rescue services, local authorities, Environment Agency, voluntary sector and individual members of the public have been brave and determined in what are very distressing circumstances,” he said.

Earlier the Local Government Association had said the money available to councils under the Bellwin scheme might not be enough and warned that where there was a shortfall it would inevitably have to be met by council tax payers.