Wet weather leaves county facing hefty repair bill

An attempt to access funds from an emergency financial package is to be made by Northumberland County Council after periods of recent heavy rainfall have taken their toll.

The authority has been left with a repair bill of more than £1million, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) , following damage done by recent flooding.

In response to the wet weather, the Government announced the Bellwin Scheme – a source of emergency financial help for councils – would pay out a higher percentage of councils’ costs to help them get stricken communities and businesses back on their feet.

The county council has said it will try to access funding from the scheme.

However, the authority fears that it may not be able to claim anything for the package.

Andy Rutherford, head of highways and neighbourhood services said: “Government funding is available via Communities and Local Government (CLG) department under the Bellwin Scheme to cover the cost of initial repairs, making areas safe and clean-up costs.

“The council has registered an interest with CLG to make a claim under this scheme.

“However, any costs that are insured, any excesses incurred on insurance claims and any normal salary costs are not eligible expenditure. Capital expenditure is also ineligible.

“The scheme has a minimum threshold that has to be exceeded before a claim can be made and in Northumberland’s case this is £907k.

“While we do not yet have overall cost figures for the council, in view of the strict eligibility criteria it is probable that we will not be able to claim anything.

“It is however possible to add the costs from any future incidents to the one at the end of June if the Government decide to trigger the Bellwin Scheme.”

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is calling for the Department for Transport to set up an Emergency Capital Highways Maintenance Fund, as it did following the floods of 2007.

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said: “We know times are tough, but we also know Government has money available. Many councils urgently need financial support to help them repair their ravaged roads and get local growth back on track.”