Following storm Desmond at the weekend which wreaked havoc across the North of England and Scotland there are now predictions of further heavy rain in the coming days. Labour MEPs have written to David Cameron calling on him to access European cash which can support flooded areas. The EU Solidarity Fund is designed to help areas affected by crises such as severe weather and has been accessed by governments in Italy, Romania and Bulgaria.
Further damage caused by the floodwaters will come to light in the coming days and weeks as communities and businesses count the cost of another overwhelming natural disaster. Infrastructural damage to roads, railway lines, bridges and electricity sub stations will need to be repaired as quickly as possible to prevent further economic losses to businesses and disruption to all. The cost of repairs will most likely run in to hundreds of millions of pounds. To help ease the financial strain the UK Government should take advantage of the European Union Solidarity Fund.
The EU Solidarity Fund was set up to respond to major natural disasters. As a member of the European Union the UK is entitled to apply for funds that can be used to pay for emergency repairs to gas, water, electricity and telephone services as well as general cleaning up.
Since its creation in 2002, the Fund has been used for 70 disasters across the EU covering a range of different events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. The UK has benefitted from the Fund in the past; in 2007 we received £120m from the Fund when 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses were flooded in the south west of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside. At the time it was one of the largest ever payments made.
Paul Brannen MEP, member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said “The recent flooding has been devastating for householders and the rural economy in general. Being flooded is an awful experience, especially at this time of year. It is also distressing for farmers who have lost livestock and other rural businesses whose work is disrupted by flooded roads and properties. Any opportunity to get assistance should be taken advantage of and anything which helps people recover from this storm should be welcomed.”
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP added “We pay into the European Union and we should make use of everything that is available. Our worry is that sometimes the Government doesn’t apply for these things as it doesn’t want people to know the benefits of EU membership. That money is sat there with our name on it and its madness not to apply. The Government has spent £115m less on flood defences this year than last and as their cuts bite it’s even more important than ever to make the most of European investment.”
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Flooding in regions of the UK
We are writing to you regarding the flooding in our constituencies following Storm Desmond.
As you will be aware, the past 48 hours has seen record levels of rainfall, with some areas receiving the equivalent of a month's rainfall in just two days. Faced with this barrage, thousands of homes have been flooded and many households and businesses have been left without electricity, just weeks before Christmas.
We are therefore writing to you to make a plea that all necessary efforts are made and all necessary resources are fully explored, at national and European level, to assist those affected by Storm Desmond.
Last year when the South West of England was hit with similar flooding the UK government failed to draw down on vital European Union funding, leaving people in that area without extra financial support to rebuild their lives.
We would like to ask you to make sure this situation is not repeated, and that this time the UK government makes use of the resources at its disposal and applies for full EU support.
In the past year alone the governments of Italy, Bulgaria and Romania have received more than £40 million through the EU Solidarity Fund, to help their communities recover after severe flooding. On behalf of all those communities affected we urge you and the British government to do the same.
If the UK government decide to pursue this route, we as Labour MEPs will be at your service to help facilitate a quick and successful application.
We look forward to receiving your thoughts on this matter.