Council’s challenge to Ministers
over £40.5m flood defence bill

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

Ministers have been urged to come to a flood-hit part of Yorkshire to discuss how to raise tens of millions of pounds for at-risk communities to avoid a repeat of last year’s devastating floods.

Calderdale Council has calculated it needs £40.5m to improve defences following the dramatic floods which hit towns and
villages in West Yorkshire in 2012.

It comes as new figures from the Environment Agency suggests last year’s flooding could have cost the UK economy up to £600m.

The Agency said the estimated damage to all property totalled around £277m while the impact on businesses in England was up to £200m, including £84m in property damage.

Other indirect impacts – such as lost working days – hit companies and local economies by around £33m, the Agency found, and disruption to transport, communications and utility links cost up to £82m.

While a quarter of days were
officially in drought in 2012, with 20 million people affected by hosepipe bans, flooding occurred one in every five days, affecting more than 7,000 properties.

Calderdale Council was left with a repair and clean-up bill of around £8.5m – yet received just £80,000 from the Government’s Bellwin Scheme.

In July the area suffered another blow when the tiny community of Walsden, in Todmorden, was hit by a flash flood which burst through homes and damaged roads.

Deputy leader of Calderdale Council Barry Collins said: “Working with our partners, principally the Environment Agency, we have developed a forward plan that would ideally require £40.5m of spending over the coming years. At the moment frankly we have no real idea where that kind of money will come from.

“I welcome Danny Alexander and any other Government spokesman to come to Calderdale and sit down with council leaders and tell us how we are going to raise the £40.5m that we need to meet a basic attempt to respond to the problems we had 14 to 15 months ago.

“We have just put another £500,000 in our flood programme which is going for approval on Wednesday and for us that is an important step. We are certainly disappointed with the so-called support we
received from Bellwin in the
immediate aftermath of the floods.

“Since then we have had the flash-flooding in Walsden, which basically ripped the heart out of a tiny hamlet.

“In our view Bellwin needs revising but the issue here is not just the immediate situation and the emergency response, the real issue is the long-term attempt to make communities like ours more resilient.”

But Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker said he “absolutely disputed” the £40.5m figure.

He said: “It is pie in the sky. Barry knows as well as I do that the first time Calderdale does have the opportunity to get funding via the community funding project, which means a mixture of funding from Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency and the Government, but we need plans in place first of all.

“Under the previous Government funding formula, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd never qualified for any flood defence work.”

The Environment Agency said more businesses were coming forward to contribute to flood defences, including a £50m project in Leeds to protect 500 businesses and 3,000 city-centre flats. The scheme has secured £31m from the Agency and government as well as £10m from Leeds City Council.

Since 2011, the partnership funding initiative has attracted nearly £150m of external funding for flood defences, on top of Government’s £2.3bn investment.

Mr Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the Government was getting on with building better flood defences across the country.

He added: “At the Spending Round we set out long-term funding for flood defences, protecting over 300,000 homes over the next six years, giving homeowners and businesses security, and unlocking new development and job opportunities.

“The private sector is also doing its part with companies across the UK contributing £148m to the Government’s partnership funding scheme, so that local communities and businesses can share the benefit of better defences.”