By Ian Lewis
Councils working to help communities recover from the recent storms and flooding will be given an extra £6.7 million, it's been announced.
The extra government funding will help them repair roads, sea defences and other damaged infrastructure, work set to cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
It follows a Local Government Association (LGA) call for ministers to back the recovery effort with more money and set up a new emergency fund.
The financial assistance already available to councils includes the Bellwin Scheme, which local authorities can apply to for help in exceptional circumstances.
Return to normal life
Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: "I have been hugely impressed by the efforts of the emergency services, local authorities, voluntary organisations and communities through the recent severe weather.
"And now we are helping areas to recover and see life return to normal.
"This extra £7 million that can be used to help affected communities, will provide local authorities and their partner agencies additional resources they need to support recovery.
"This will top up support councils can get under the Bellwin scheme to cover the costs of clearing up after severe weather and flooding, and the substantial funding councils already get for potholes."
Trail of destruction
Mike Jones, the LGA's environment and housing board chairman, said: "Councils have worked round-the-clock since the bad weather began last month to protect residents and minimise disruption and will continue to help those who remain affected by flooding.
"The severe weather has left behind a daunting trail of destruction for councils to clear-up and fix.
"We were already facing a £10.5 billion repair backlog to bring our highways up to scratch and the damage to our roads by this recent flooding will be considerable and costly.
"While we are pleased the Bellwin Scheme will be activated, the fact remains that Bellwin is severely limited as it does not cover most capital costs."
Mr Jones said the association wanted to see an emergency highway maintenance fund established to support councils facing big, unexpected flooding repair bills.
He added: "These bills are likely to place significant financial pressures on already stretched council finances and it is vital that local communities are not left to suffer as a result.
"Local communities and local economies need to recover as quickly as possible.
"This can only be achieved through extra government cash which covers repairs excluded from the Bellwin Scheme."
Mr Lewis said billions were already being provided for highways maintenance.