Financial News

  • 13 February 2014, 10:25

No New Money For Flood Relief, Says No 10

There will be no new money to pay for flood relief, Downing Street sources have told Sky News.

Less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister pledged "money is no object" in the effort to helping flooded communities recover, the Number 10 source confirmed his comments did not mean extra money would be found.

Instead, Whitehall departments would be expected to find the money to deal with the aftermath of the crisis from their existing budgets.

However, at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron continued to insist that "money is no object" and said: "I want communities who are suffering and people who see water lapping at their doors to know that when it comes to the military, when it comes to sandbags, when it comes to restoring broken flood defences, all of those things, money is no object."

At a Number 10 briefing on Wednesday afternoon the PM's spokesman said grants of up to £5,000 would be available to anyone affected by flooding "during the winter period". The Government estimates that 5,500 properties have been affected since early December and 920 since the end of January. So the whole package could reach £37.5m.

For firms hit by floods, business rates will be waived for three months.

Farmers will be able to apply to the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs for cash from a £10m fund for clearing up flood debris left behind.

The spokesman said that†RBS, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Santander and Nationwide are making interest free loans available from a £750m fund.

There will also be £31m for a rail resilience programme, although he admitted this money has been announced before.

It was not explained where the money would come from although a Downing Street source earlier suggested it would be from under-spending in existing budgets across the departments. If it is new money then it is unclear how that will be raised.

On Wednesday morning, the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said there would be no "blank cheque" when it came to using public funds to deal with the crisis.

The events will trigger concern that there continues to be confusion at the heart of Government over how to deal with the ongoing crisis after wrangling over who is to blame for the problems.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Mr McLoughlin said: "I don't think it's a blank cheque.

"I think what the Prime Minister was making very clear is that we are going to use every resource of the Government and money is not the issue while we are in this relief job, in the first instance of trying to bring relief to those communities that are affected."

He told ITV Daybreak: "Then we have got to do the repairs of the structures and the railway infrastructure that's been damaged and then the other long-term issues, which will need some careful consideration."

Mr Cameron, who headed a Cobra meeting this morning, on Tuesday appeared to be taking control of the situation after facing significant criticism for being slow to react to the flooding crisis.

He gave his first press conference in 238 days and announced he was cancelling a trip to the Middle East to deal with the situation at home.

"Nothing is more important than dealing with these floods. Money is no object in this relief effort," he said.

"Whatever money is needed for it, it will be spent. We will take whatever steps are necessary.

"There is absolutely no sign of this threat abating, and with further rain and strong winds forecast throughout the week, things may get worse before they get better."

However, his comments were met with significant confusion over where the money would come from, as the Treasury rigorously pursues its austerity agenda.

Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, previously raised the prospect of taking the money from international† aid projects.

He told Sky News: "When you get an emergency in this country, it's time to say charity begins at home.

"What are we doing giving £300m a year to India? They've got a space programme, aircraft carriers and they've even got planes on them. So there's a very strong argument that says spend the money here."

His suggestion was swiftly quashed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who said it was wrong to "pit helping flood victims at home against those suffering abroad".

"We can and should help both," he said.

However, Mr Farage's suggestion sparked a significant response and a petition has been started calling on the Government to divert the aid spending.

Some 1,600 Army personnel are now on standby to help communities along the River Thames struggling to keep the water from their doors as the weather is to take a turn for the worse with strong winds and heavy rains.

Politicians were out in force visiting flood-hit communities on Tuesday but faced hostility from members of the public who were sceptical of their motives.

In Wraysbury, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was confronted flood warden Su Burrows, who demanded action. Within hours the Army was on the ground.

Ed Miliband, who was in Reading and Wraysbury, faced criticism after offering sympathy and was told he needed to offer solutions.

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