Rotherham Council leader criticises Government’s ‘day-by-day’ flood relief plans as he says ‘more clarity needed’

Rotherham Council leader criticises Government’s ‘day-by-day’ flood relief plans as he says ‘more clarity needed’

By Adele Forrest | 15/11/2019

Rotherham Council leader criticises Government’s ‘day-by-day’ flood relief plans as he says ‘more clarity needed’
Cllr Chris Read

COUNCIL leaders have asked for more clarity from the government over initiatives set up to help residents and businesses affected by flooding.

Today, the government announced households and business owners “significantly affected” by flooding would have immediate relief on their council tax and business rates.

But when pressed by the Advertiser on how this would be implemented and who would decide on eligibility criteria, a government spokeswoman admitted the criteria “is yet to be decided”.

She added that it was for local authorities to provide the relief from money given to them by the government.

Rotherham Council leader, Cllr Chris Read, said it was another announcement the Government had made public before consulting with local authorities.

He said: “So long as they are fully funding it, we will come up with reasonable criteria. But reassurance is needed they are going to stick to it.”

Cllr Read said the announcement around grants for small to medium-sized businesses had also made public before consultation with local authorities.

He said today’s news on business and council tax relief rates “makes perfect sense”, adding: “People are unable to use their premises, so should get relief, the principle of that is right just as the principle of small grants for people directly affected.

“What I would say is, it would be much easier from local authorities point of view to give us a sum of money, in the way they did in 2007, which allowed us to use that in the way we think is most appropriate for the people of Rotherham.

“It does not make sense central government is operating on a day-by-day basis, deciding relatively small schemes and leaving us to catch up.”

On Wednesday, South Yorkshire Labour council leaders also wrote to the secretary of state calling for urgent clarity around the Bellwin Scheme.

Under the Bellwin scheme, councils can apply for reimbursement of the costs they incur as part of their immediate response to major incidents such as floods.

The letter — signed by Cllr Read, Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, Sheffield leader Cllr Julie Dore, Barnsley leader, Cllr Simon Greaves, and more — asked for immediate reassurance that eligible claims made before December 12 “will be paid in full and in a timely manner”.

They also urged the government to extend the deadline by which each local authority has to complete all works for which they can claim under the scheme.

Cllr Read said he hoped that by Monday (18), RMBC would have information on its website about how residents and business owners can register for tax relief and they could start “engaging with people in a more useful way”.

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