At the time of writing, it’s nine weeks since the first flooding hit Somerset.
For many, homes and businesses have been submerged under floodwater since the first storms before Christmas. For some, this has been a distressing repeat of last year’s events. The misery is indescribable and the resultant chaos impacting on everyday life takes a huge emotional toll.
Add to that the inevitable financial distress when you can’t work, or can’t get to work and it is hard to see how and when life will ever return to normal.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to persuade Government Ministers to demand the Treasury gets a move on, does the right thing and puts in a claim to the equivalent of our insurance company, the European Union.
The Treasury could, and should, stop faffing around and apply for a grant from the regional disaster fund, part of the European Union Solidarity Fund.
The Solidarity Fund was created after severe flooding in Central Europe in 2002, and is designed to respond with grants to Member States after major natural disasters or drought.
In the last few years, regional disaster funding has been used to help:
- in Austria in 2005, with £11m for road, rail, telecom, water course, river bed repairs and cleaning up debris
- the UK in 2007 receiving £31 million for the clear-up after flooding in Gloucestershire
- Italy in 2009, receiving £43m following the earthquake in the Province of L’Aquila, then a further £301m to rebuild homes.
There’s a pot of money sitting in Brussels as we speak. The Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, says the money can be channelled to help the communities in Somerset worst affected by this disaster. He’s ready and waiting for an application for Somerset.
The Government can define the size of the area which needs help, there’s no minimum limit, and the criteria for a bid are that
- serious and lasting damage has occurred
- there have been repercussions for economic stability and living conditions in the region and
- 50% of people living there are affected
Somerset meets all the criteria.
But the application form is still sitting on George Osborne’s desk, awaiting his signature. And the clock is ticking. There’s one condition on regional disaster grants – the application must be submitted within ten weeks from the first day of the disaster.
I don’t know how much more of a disaster George Osborne thinks the flooding in Somerset can become – but this help is available for precisely this sort of catastrophe.
We taxpayers pay into Europe, and it’s our turn to ask for some help. That’s what we pay for, it’s only fair and it’s what Somerset’s residents and businesses deserve.
So there’s no time to waste, George! Don’t leave the application forms any longer, George, or you’ll miss the deadline which expires in just a fortnight’s time!