No Extra Flood Support for Somerset

Somerset Levels Flooded

Somerset Levels Flooded

So Defra Secretary Owen Paterson came and went. The man widely derided as the worst ever Environment Secretary belatedly made his way to Somerset only to tell residents that there would be no immediate extra funding to help flood-hit communities. As a County Councillor, I’m tired of hearing other Councillors from the ruling Conservative group boast about how they are privately fighting for a fairer funding formula for rural areas in Somerset. Their private efforts (do they really exist?) have borne no fruit and now their public efforts have been equally futile. But we Somerset residents must not give up.

The County Council’s recent conversion to public campaigning, on the flooding issue, needs to morph into a general campaign along the lines of the Rural Fair Shares group, for fair funding for rural areas. Urban councils receive 50% more government grant per head than local authorities in rural areas despite the fact that rural residents pay an average of £100 each more in Council Tax and services are often more expensive to provide in sparsely-populated areas. If Somerset Conservatives had got a grip of this issue at any time in the last 5 years, we may not now have to go begging to Defra for a handout to help fix the flooding problems that frequently beset the County. The more residents press the Council to demand fair funding, the more likely they are to do it, although I suspect that secretly the administration is quite comfortable with reduced funding as I set out here.

Come on, Somerset Conservatives. Time to step up and overtly press Government for fair funding. If you continue to refuse then the people of Somerset will fairly say that future budget cuts are necessary only because you have failed to fight our corner. I’ll certainly be saying that at every opportunity. Do it, and take the wind out of my sails!

The following is from a press release issued this afternoon by Somerset County Council

Speaking after the visit, Cllr John Osman said: “Although I am hugely disappointed that Central Government have not announced any additional funding we will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset’s residents.

However, there was some hope for those communities as Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson announced an action plan for the next 20 years to protect the levels and moors.

Speaking after the visit, Cllr John Osman said: “Although I am hugely disappointed that Central Government have not announced any additional funding we will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset’s residents.

“We are happy to work with Government and other agencies to draw up a long-term plan to protect our communities against flooding but I want to be clear that this is not the end of our fight to lobby Government to support our flood-hit communities”.

Possible projects mentioned by Owen Paterson included a barrage for Bridgwater, dredging rivers, and other flood prevention measures.

People are encouraged to support Somerset County Council’s campaign to secure ‘Fairer Funding for Somerset’ by liking and sharing photos at www.facebook.com/fairerfundingforsomerset or by using the hashtag #fairerfundingforsomerset on Twitter.

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