County Council budget amendment: Action on flooding

The County Council set its budget on Monday. I put forward an amendment that would have made £250,000 available to fund grants for people to protect their homes from flooding. I was told the money should properly come from the Environment Agency so I withdrew the amendment and said I would be watching to make sure the funding was obtained.

You can watch the whole debate on the budget on the County Council’s YouTube channel. My amendment is moved at 4 hours in.

This is what I said:

A couple of months ago I joined a meeting of frustrated and angry residents in Northrepps in my division to see the impact of another incidence of localised flooding in my division. We were joined by the excellent local Flood Protection Officer who listened and observed and advised.

One of the key pieces of advice that he gave was that residents should do what they could to protect their own property from flooding. That makes good sense because although we all know that severe weather events and flooding are likely to be an increasing part of our lives in the years ahead, the County Council can only intervene and act where the law allows it.

I learned at that meeting that the County Council offers a grant scheme to help people carry out work to protect their properties in just that way. After five years on the council I’m willing to accept that I should have discovered before now that the scheme exists. But having discovered it my first thought was that I should do what I can to promote it to residents and to make sure it is designed and funded to give the maximum possible help to those who need it.

I’m afraid to say it wasn’t the easiest of tasks to get hold of the information I needed about the scheme but I did finally establish that we have not yet given out any grants under the scheme because the funding is not there to do the preparatory work.

This grant scheme is just part of the answer of course.

I’m sure the Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance will make a serious impact on flooding problems across the county over time but it needs political impetus and leadership from this council to help it to deliver. Just one of the first 26 schemes of work that it has announced are in North Norfolk. Whatever the reasons for that, I struggle to believe that the District has less than 5% of the need and it sits with all of us to make sure that the voice of our communities is heard.

My amendment today was intended to clear that blockage. I understand that Councillor Grant is going to tell me that the money I am asking for should be provided by the Environment Agency. If that’s the case I am prepared to withdraw my amendment and to offer whatever help I can give to ensure that money is obtained. We all must make sure this issue is given the priority our residents are demanding it has. But we also have to see some real drive and leadership on this. If not, we are going to see a rising number of properties affected by localised flooding and a growing number of Norfolk residents becoming increasingly angry at failures to help them protect their homes.