As I am writing this, it is still raining and the national news has just announced some parts of the UK could see a month’s worth of rain in the next 24 hours alone, falling on ground that is already saturated.
This is causing very understandable and real concern for the communities affected, with 120 flood warnings remaining in place across the country.
Rightly the Government has announced that the Flooding Recovery Framework has been activated in response to the severe weather from Storms Dennis and Ciara and will assist those in the worst-hit areas. It is available to all district or unitary authorities where 25 or more households were flooded as a result of the recent storms.
Moreover, the Government has also activated the Bellwin Scheme. This scheme ensures that local authorities that are impacted by flooding can apply to have 100 per cent of their eligible costs reimbursed by the government. I understand that this could be for items such as rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime. Additionally, the Government’s Community Recovery Grant is providing further support in the immediate term for people and businesses via grants of £500, along with three months of relief on council tax and business rates for those affected by the flooding.
Both the military and Environment Agency staff have also been on the ground assisting those affected.
I am grateful that we have already made significant preparations for potential flooding. Over the past five years, this work included protecting over 260,000 homes via £2.6 billion spending on flood defences. In fact, I stood on a manifesto which commits to increasing this flood preparation spending by £4 billion over the next five years. We can clearly see why this work is so vital.
In addition to the above, the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP, has informed me that he is convening a cross-Whitehall Flood Recovery Taskforce this week, which will include environment, business and transport ministers, to provide individual areas with bespoke support and guidance. I understand that these discussions will include how ministers can help people to make their homes more resilient, and how the Government can support small companies and protect them from future flooding issues.
I sincerely thank all the emergency staff and volunteers for all their hard work assisting residents and businesses to recover following these severe storms. My thoughts remain with all those who have been impacted by the flooding and the disruption it has caused.
This week we had further good news on the economy, with record high employment figures and the lowest unemployment since 1974. Despite the challenges of recent times, businesses have continued to invest and grow, creating new opportunities. Locally this has meant more than 11,000 new jobs created in Swindon since 2010 alone.
The latest figures show that wages are continuing to rise ahead of prices and, after adjusting for inflation, are at their highest level since March 2008, meaning families have more money in their pockets. But there is more to do, and we will give the National Living Wage its largest ever cash boost from April.
As we embark on a bright future outside the EU, we are delivering on people’s priorities and helping families with the cost of living through lower taxes, higher wages and more well-paid jobs.