Cllr Mike Jones (Chairman, Environment and Housing Board), outlined the current position in relation to severe weather and flooding. In particular, he highlighted the work of councils and their public sector partners in supporting their communities. He drew attention to LGA’s activity to keep member councils briefed on developments, as well as liaising with the national media to highlight the work of councils in affected areas. Whilst work to ascertain the full scale of recovery costs was ongoing, Cllr Jones emphasised the importance of councils having full discretion over how the additional funding allocated by government should be spent.
In the discussion that followed, Members made a number of detailed comments, including:
· Whilst the Prime Minister’s commitment that ‘money would be no object’ in supporting the recovery was welcomed, Members emphasised the need to ensure that councils did not experience a shortfall in funding as a result of their recovery activities.
· That previous emergency incidents such as the flooding in Hull and the gas explosion in Oldham had not attracted such a commitment.
· The need for clarity about the different funding streams available and the role of councils in the design of the funding criteria.
· The importance of councils having autonomy over how to spend funding to best meet local need.
· Whether funding was available for Welsh local authorities affected by flooding.
· The importance of support from the insurance industry to ensure that victims receive compensation, and whether those affected by the 2011 riots had actually received compensation.
Response and Communications
· There was general consensus that the working relationship between the Environment Agency (EA) and councils had been constructive. On behalf of the EA, Cllr Light (Deputy Chair of the EA) thanked local councils and partners for their vital contribution to the response and recovery effort.
· Whilst Members commended the success of partnership working across the public and voluntary community sector (VCS) in helping those at risk, concerns were expressed about the continued capacity of local volunteers to support communities.
· There were diverging views as to the extent that the role of councils should be actively promoted in the media in the wider political context.
· With reference to the long term nature of the recovery, the importance of maintaining the profile nationally after the initial media interest had waned was emphasised.
· With reference to limited financial investment in coastal defences over a prolonged period of time, as well as reductions in funding to councils and the EA, Members highlighted the need for local government to lead an honest and realistic national debate about flood management, funding and the role and responsibilities of councils and the EA.
· Member welcomed the Government’s review to ensure that lessons were learnt from recent events, but emphasised the importance of local government feeding into the review.
· It was also suggested, that work be undertaken to look at other vulnerable public service areas to future proof against potential risks.
· Members suggested that the ability of the sector to swiftly and effectively respond to the demands of the crisis be used as lever for greater autonomy, as well to make the case for the sector being represented on the Government's national emergencies committee, COBRA.
The Executive noted the update.
Clarify funding for Welsh councils.