Labour MEPs have called on the government to urgently come up with a plan that will speed up the rebuilding of communities hit by the 2015 floods, after the European Parliament voted today to approve the release of more than £50 million of EU funds to provide assistance to affected areas.
The funds can be used for the restoration to working order of infrastructure for energy, water, transport, telecoms, health and education; temporary accommodation and emergency services to meet the immediate needs of the population; securing of preventive infrastructure such as dams and dykes; measures to protect cultural heritage; and clean-up operations.
In total, £51 million will be given to the UK government at the beginning of May, money that must be spent in the regions affected. It is for the government to decide whether to spend the money directly or to allocate it to local councils to spend.
Julie Ward MEP, Labour MEP for North-West England, said:
“In my constituency, thousands and thousands of people were affected by the floods, which left a trail of destruction and devastation: £2.1 billion of damage, more than 16,000 households flooded - around 3,600 households placed into alternative accommodation - nearly 5,000 businesses flooded.
“The money should be spent on improved flood defences, which failed catastrophically, but most importantly, the money must go to the people who suffered the consequences, many of whom are still living in temporary accommodation.
“The government fiddled while Cumbria flooded, but now, thanks to the European Union Solidarity Fund, we can speed up the recovery. Tory government ministers waited forever to apply for the funding. They must not continue to dither and delay - we need a plan to rebuild the region, and we need one now.”
Clare Moody MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on budgets, added:
“It’s great news that these funds are available for those affected by the floods, but we cannot have it now lying dormant in a bank account in Whitehall - knowing this money was coming, the government should already have a plan to spend the £50 million urgently and prudently.
“Having taken their time to apply for assistance - and only applying after the Commission reminded them of the deadline - it is their responsibility to be quicker with the implementation.”