Sir George has spent the first few days of the short parliamentary recess visiting villages in his North West Hampshire constituency suffering from flooding.
“I started off in the west of the constituency, at Shipton Bellinger, where villagers told me that the waters were a little bit lower on Friday than they had been earlier in the week. A large number of houses were sandbagged, and the road past the church was closed. The Chairman of Shipton Bellinger Parish Council is kindly keeping me in the picture on a regular basis. I believe recent action to dredge the Bourne may have helped. Wash from cars is an issue - motorists should drive very carefully if they have to go down flooded roads."
"Appleshaw was inaccessible from the west, and could only be reached by Ragged Appleshaw. The main road through the village was flooded, but accessible at the time by 4x4s. Hopefully the drainage work that has been done recently has also reduced the impact of the floods in this village, but I remain very concerned about the houses that are vulnerable."
"Kimpton and Fyfield had high water levels, and flooded fields on either side, but the threat there seemed lower than in some of the other villages."
"Vernham Dean was only accessible from Conholt, and I was enormously impressed by the work being done by the volunteers, laying sandbags, helping to pump out, moving furniture and liaising with the statutory authorities. I was grateful for the cup of tea from volubnteers in the Milolennium Hall."
"Church Street in Hurstbourne Tarrant was half flooded, and the houses on either side extremely vulnerable. The George & Dragon on the corner seemed to be the most directly affected property. But clearly there are grave concerns which I am pursuing."
After his visit on Friday, Sir George contacted the Environment Agency, to ensure that everything possible was being done to help the villages.
On Saturday, Sir George visited Overton, and Whitchurch, calling in at Tufton.
“Tufton is clearly very vulnerable, but at the time of my visit the water was still within the river, but the sandbags indicated that the water may have been higher”. Sir George then visited St Mary Bourne, and spoke to those working for Basingstoke & Deane and Southern Water.
“The water levels have gone down, and I believe that the tankers that were there earlier in the day had relieved some of the pressure. However, I remain very concerned about the vulnerability of St Mary Bourne, where, unlike some of the other villages, the drains are an issue as well as the water courses”.
Pumping is also taking place at the village where Sir George lives, Penton Mewsey, but so far no properties are directly affected. "However some of the houses in the vuillage were without power for a day and a half. That has now been restored."
Sir George has asked the clerks of some of the key parish councils to keep him in touch. “I am very grateful to St Mary Bourne and Shipton Bellinger for their regular bulletins”.
Sir George will continue to visit and liaise throughout the week. He will also pursue on behalf of constituents the offers of Government help that have been made - see below
• For those homeowners and businesses which have been affected by flooding, we will provide repair grants of up to £5,000 per house and per business to help people build in better flood protection as they repair their homes and businesses.
• Those businesses which have been affected by the floods will get 100 per cent business rate relief for three months and will get an extra three months to pay the business taxes they owe.
• Farmers who are suffering from water-logged fields will be able to benefit from a £10 million fund which will help to restore farm land as quickly as possible. DEFRA will open applications at the end of February.
• We have also secured a total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods.
The Prime Minister has also made it clear to local councils that they should not charge for sandbags in flood-hit areas – where needed, central government will pick up the cost.
The Government is continuing to take action across the board to ensure that everything that can be done is being done. This includes delivering extra pumps and sandbags; a commitment to dredging – including in Somerset; deploying the military wherever they are needed, with thousands already working on the ground or on standby; and providing additional support for local emergency services. We have also told energy companies to stand up the people necessary to get those homes which have lost power reconnected as quickly as possible.
And following its first meeting yesterday, the new Cabinet Committee on floods agreed a series of reviews to inform the long-term flood recovery plan so that the country is more resilient for the future:
• A review of the Bellwin scheme which provides emergency financial assistance to local authorities during exceptional circumstances, to consider whether the arrangements for providing funding to compensate local authorities for the costs of emergency measures are fit for purpose;
• A targeted review of the resilience of the transport network to extreme weather events;
• A review of investment decision guidelines on flood defences;
• An annual resilience review to consider the local, regional and national response to extreme weather situations and make recommendations for the Government’s long and short-term resilience strategy.
The Government will be announcing further detail on how to apply for the following schemes by the end of next week: