I am writing to update you about the action the Government is taking to help families, businesses and farmers affected by the floods and extreme weather.
Since the East Coast surge in early December, over 6,700 properties have been flooded across England. Over the same period more than 1.3 million properties have been protected by flood defences.
The emergency services, members of our Armed Forces, the Environment Agency, council workers and community volunteers are continuing to do an incredible job helping in the response, relief and recovery effort. In many areas, water levels are receding and residents are able to re-enter their homes, but we know that it will be some time before their homes are fully habitable again, and that groundwater levels are likely to remain high for some time — all of which means that the return to normality will take some time.
We are currently taking action across the board to make sure every part of government is doing absolutely everything it can to help, drawing on the full resources of the military, local authorities, police and Fire and Rescue Services.
We will continue to ensure that everything that can be done is being done in this relief effort, and to support local councils as they play a leading role in driving the recovery process.
I would also like to update you on the schemes to help families, businesses and farmers which I announced at my press conference last month.
Help for homeowners
We are helping people who need help now and protecting communities who need protecting in the future by providing:
• Up to £4 million to councils, to help provide a council tax rebate for people whose properties are flooded. This funding guarantee to local authorities means that they can start providing this council tax relief immediately;
• New Repair and Renewal grants of up to £5,000 to flooded homeowners and businesses, to improve a property's ability to withstand future flooding. The new grants will go live from 1 April.
Help for businesses
In addition to the above support, we are helping businesses affected by the floods since December 2013 get back on their feet through:
• A new business support scheme. Worth up to £10 million, the scheme provides hardship funding for small businesses in affected areas. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. Eligible businesses will be able to claim for funding for things like immediate clean-up costs, materials, and exceptional costs to help them continue trading.
• Extra time for businesses to file accounts without incurring penalties. If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension and not collect the penalties which apply for late filings.
• Business rate relief. Flooded businesses will qualify for 100 per cent business rate relief for three months, regardless of how long they were flooded.
• A government business support helpline. The helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. It will offer a free one hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now.
Help for farmers
The £10 million Farming Recovery Fund opened on Friday, enabling all farmers affected by flooding to apply for emergency funding of up to £5,000, covering up to 100 per cent of their business costs. This will ensure that they can continue growing crops and grazing livestock. The majority of the Farming Recovery Fund will be reserved for farm businesses whose farms remain flooded. Unlike the initial grant, the upper limit of this funding will be set when the impact on these longer term losses from flood damage is clearer, once the flood waters recede.
Additionally, the £10 million Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme will offer eligible farmers grants of up to £35,000 on schemes designed to make businesses more resilient.
Dealing with these floods will be a long haul, requiring a stepped-up national effort with the whole country pulling together. We will continue to help the people who need help, protect the communities that need protecting, and we will build a more resilient country for the future.