UK Politics

Flood victims face wait for EU aid after application delays

Holly Baillie-Grohman looks at flood damage in the village of Thorney, in Somerset Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Somerset was among the areas hit by flooding

Months after the Christmas floods, the European Commission has yet to assess a UK bid for aid to help repair the damage to homes and businesses.

A Commission spokesman told the BBC it was still waiting for information from the British government.

It cannot begin its assessment as it has yet to receive a final estimate of the flood damage.

The news means any EU payout to help repair damage is likely to be many months away.

Labour said the situation was a "total shambles" and money could already have been made available if the government had acted more quickly.

Britain had provided only a provisional estimate, putting the total cost at £1.7bn.

Ministers confirmed they were to make an application to the EU Solidarity Fund in February.

Long term restoration

Once the Commission has received the information it has six weeks to make a decision, but the European Parliament and the European Council both have to give their approval.

A government spokesman said it had already paid out £250m of support to flood victims and the application to the EU fund would take time.

Sixteen thousand homes were flooded in December and January, with Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria in England and central and north-east Scotland among the worst affected.

A European Commission spokeswoman said: "The UK government presented the case as a regional disaster with total direct damage provisionally estimated at £1.7bn.

"It should be noted that the UK considers their damage estimates as provisional and announced that updated data will be provided as soon as possible.

"The assessment of the application by the Commission can only be completed once the updated damage figures have been provided."

The Commission stressed the EU solidarity fund was not designed to provide a rapid response but was there for long term restoration.

'Get a grip'

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "As set out in Parliament nearly six weeks ago we made clear we were applying and are now in the process of collating and submitting the detailed information the Commission requires alongside our application.

"This will take time as communities continue to make claims under our recovery schemes and the damage to infrastructure continues to be assessed - councils, departments and devolved administrations will need to supply their final costs as they become available."

Any EU payment would be made to the British government which would then decide how to spend the money.

In 2008 the UK received around £120m from the EU to help repair damage caused by heavy floods.

The shadow floods minister Alex Cunningham said: "This is a total shambles. David Cameron urgently needs to get a grip and finalise the UK's application for funding to help communities devastated by the floods.

"Up to £23m could already have been made available to help British homes and businesses through the EU Solidarity Fund with the potential for millions more in further payouts."

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