Flood grants start date set for 1 April - Cameron

Flood scene More than 6,500 homes in England have been affected by the winter's floods

The government's scheme to provide grants for homeowners in England hit by floods will begin on 1 April, David Cameron has announced.

Claimants will be eligible for payments of up to £5,000, to help cover future protection for properties.

But they will not cover the damage or losses already suffered.

Mr Cameron said the government was taking "decisive action across the board", but Labour says ministers have been "off the pace".

About 6,500 homes have been affected by flooding since December, and the prime minister has said "money is no object" to support the clean-up operation.

River dredging on the Somerset Levels will begin next month "as soon as it is safe and practical to do so", the Environment Agency has said.

'Decisive' action

The government's Repair and Renewal Grants of up to £5,000 will be open to all homeowners and businesses affected by flooding between 1 December last year and the end of next month.

Work will begin after a survey has been completed by "a competent professional."

The scheme will be run by councils, who will then be reimbursed by central government.

Mr Cameron said: "This government is continuing to take decisive action across the board to help hard-working people affected by the floods. We have led the immediate response through Cobra (the government's emergencies committee) and put in place a range of measures to help people in the longer term."

He added: "We are helping people who need help now and protecting communities who need protecting in the future."

The government announced on Wednesday that flood victims would be exempted from council tax for at least three months.

Details of a £10m fund for farmers to help restore their waterlogged land will be announced shortly.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has criticised the government's response to the floods and urged the country to unite behind a "national effort to do more to defend against" future instances.

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