I am sorry to hear that there has been more disruption caused by the heavy and prolonged rains. I have yet to receive definitive explanations as to the cause but it does look as though most of the problems have been caused by the drains and culverts being overwhelmed by the volume of water. Whether this has partly been caused by them being blocked by autumn leaves and debris or there are other reasons I have yet to hear. Either way it is little comfort for those who have been affected. What I do know is that central government and local government have been working on improving flood resilience all year. That does not mean of course there never will be any more flooding. I think what it does reinforce is the need to ensure that careful assessment is made of the impact on the existing drains before new housing is allowed to be constructed.
As those affected will be all too well aware the effects of last winter’s floods continue to be felt. I raised the issue again with the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this week. I was fortunate in the ballot drawing a Topical question slot enabling me to ask a question on any subject ( relevant of course to that department). I understand the Department of Transport has made a contribution to the recovery costs but the Council are still facing a shortfall and I want to keep pressing for further help.
Today sees the start of the new scheme which will enable homeowners to purchase flood insurance even in homes which are at the highest risk of flooding. The new scheme called FloodRe has been designed to make the process as simple as possible. It will be handled by the insurers themselves and already there are 17 different insurers signed up to the scheme. The scheme works by taking the flood risk element of home insurance away from the insurer in return for a premium based on the Council Tax band of the property being insured. The scheme is part funded by a levy on insurers. The scheme operators believe that around 350,000 could benefit from the new scheme and I am sure there will be many in parts of Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington.
On the day when Councillor Rob Hodkinson from Ramsbottom came down to visit Parliament I had two pieces of good news for Ramsbottom.
Firstly, since it was brought to my attention that farmers in Ramsbottom were being denied access to the Farming Recovery Flood because they are classed as being in Greater Manchester rather than Lancashire. I raised the problem directly with the Secretary of State at questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last Thursday. Well, the good news is that yesterday the Farming Recovery Fund was extended to Greater Manchester so that all farmers in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington will be able to claim.
Secondly, Sport England announced they are making a payment of £12,500 to the Ramsbottom Cricket Club to help them recover.
The budget was approved by a majority of 35 ( considerably more than the government’s notional majority of 12 ).
Today, the main attention will be on Prime Ministers’s Questions the final session before Easter. This is followed by the next chapter in the saga of HS2, a farcical piece of business where we have to explain to the EU what we are doing to converge our economy with the rest of the EU! Then there is a proposal to update the amount of taxpayers money given to the Opposition parties.
The debate on the 2016 budget enters its final day today and at the end of the day will come the votes on whether to approve or amend the budget. I have signed two amendments\; one to prevent the imposition of VAT on insulation, solar panels and other energy saving materials and one to prevent the imposition of VAT on women’s sanitary products. The current expectation is that the government will accept these amendments. Whilst it seems the Prime Minister has persuaded the rest of the EU to allow member states the freedom to set their own VAT rates on women’s sanitary products I am not aware any such agreement has been reached on insulation products. It remains to be seen how the government will actually implement zero rating of these products and more importantly what the European Union does about a member state having the audacity to show some independence. With the referendum three months away I doubt very much the European Union will do anything at the moment!
Yesterday evening I attended a reception hosted by the Prime Minister at 10, Downing Street to thank some of those who had helped respond to the flooding which occurred following the storms in December and January.
Good news today that the Government have confirmed that having carried out the necessary assessment they are going to apply to something called the European Union Solidarity Fund which exists to help member states who have suffered from a natural disaster. Given that we pay in billions of pounds every year to the EU than we get out I am all in favour of getting as much of our money back as possible. Of course, the government acted immediately when the storms hit and the flooding occurred. They immediately activated the Bellwin scheme which after local councils have paid a small first part of the clear up costs the government pays the remainder. These funds have been used to provide the various help schemes which householders throughout Bury are now benefitting from. Having attended two public meetings about the flooding and spoken to many residents I am all too well aware that although nationally the news cycle has moved on for those whose homes were flooded still face weeks and possibly months of disruption.
Today is the first day of a short recess for Parliament as Parliament does not sit again until a week on Monday.
A big thank you to all those who attended the public meeting at Radcliffe last night. The meeting followed an afternoon drop in session where representatives from bodies such as the Council, the Environment Agency, Six Town Housing and United Utilities where all on hand to answer questions.
I am back in the office today catching up with casework and constituents queries.
Tomorrow, I am departing the UK to visit Salt Lake City in Utah USA where I have been invited to give a lecture to some of the students at the University. I will be endeavouring to keep my blog up to date but apologies in advance if for any reason this is not possible.