Blears promises help for flood victims

Flood-hit areas promised assistance
Flood-hit areas promised assistance

The communities secretary Hazel Blears has promised flood-hit areas they will receive sufficient support to rebuild.

Visiting weather-torn areas in Sheffield, Ms Blears told reporters: "It is absolutely vital that the local authorities, who have been in the lead and have done some fantastic work, are supported by a complete cross-government effort, and we'll be ensuring that that happens."

Ms Blears toured the flooded Meadowhall shopping centre in the city, joined by local MP David Blunkett and flood minister John Healey.

She promised local authorities would be given the financial aid to help them repair flood damage.

Local authorities will be able to make a claim on central government for some of their costs, Ms Blears said. Crisis and community grants will also be available.

"It's incredibly traumatic to see your lifetime's possessions ruined and swept away in this way, and we want to help as much as we can," Ms Blears said.

The Liberal Democrats, however, argued flood victims need special assistance and called on the government to be generous with grants and low-interest loans.

Lib Dem environment spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The existing compensation scheme does not fund any capital spending, even though in some cases complete reconstruction, of a road section for example, would be most cost effective.

"Patching up and making do can be a false economy."

He said the scale of devastation in Hull can be difficult for outsiders to imagine, with one in five households affected.

Asked why she had not visited Hull, which claims it is the "forgotten city" in the latest floods, Ms Blears said other Cabinet ministers were planning to visit the Humberside city.

She denied the government would have reacted more strongly if the floods had affected southern towns and cities.

Hull city council leader Carl Minns said the plight of Hull was being ignored and if the floods had hit Chelsea or Fulham instead they would have been "plastered across the front pages for weeks."

South Yorkshire and the Humberside have been hardest hit by the floods, although areas across the north Midlands have been affected.

In Hull, around 17,000 properties have been affected and city leaders warn the damage could cost £200 million to repair.


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