I am absolutely delighted that the UK Government will finally apply for the EU Solidarity Fund - at the eleventh hour.
Since December, the UK has been hit by Storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank and Jonas. The first storm hit on 8th December and from this date the UK could have applied for EU Solidarity Funding (EUSF). The deadline to apply for the fund is tomorrow, 26th February.
From the outset I have toured flooded areas in the region and have spent time talking to residents whose homes have been flooded, business people who are struggling to keep going, local authorities and other partners who have been involved from the ‘blue light’ emergency phase and who are now involved in helping with the recovery. I have been deeply moved by the response of local communities and the hundreds of volunteers from across the region and nationally who have come to the aid of victims in my constituency during this very traumatic time.
I have spoken three times in the European Parliament about the floods and about the need for help and solidarity from other member states. I specifically asked the EU Commissioner for Regional Development if the UK was eligible to apply for the EUSF and she not only confirmed that we were eligible, but also that the EU Commission was waiting for our application, and that 10% of the available funding would already have been in the British government's bank account if David Cameron had acted swiftly. Together with Labour MEPs from other affected regions I wrote to the Prime Minister inviting him to apply for aid from the EUSF and followed this up with a second letter.
I invited Jeremy Corbyn to come up to Cumbria to see for himself the impact of the floods in the area and was pleased that he was able to visit Keswick, Cockermouth and Carlisle. I have also attended the first two meetings of the newly formed Carlisle Residents and Businesses Flood Action Group where I had the opportunity to listen to the concerns of local people, and I visited Eden Flood Volunteers in Penrith.
We don't yet know exactly how much funding will be available, but as the amount of damage is more than 2% of the North West's GDP, under the EUSF specifications, the floods have been deemed a national disaster. As such, at least £125 million will be available nationally.
I wish to commend the work of my Labour MEP and MP colleagues as well as local councillors the emergency services and the volunteers who have helped to maintain pressure on the Government to apply for the EUSF. Now begins the recovery but we must continue to look out for our communities as it will take a long time for victims to get back to normal.
EU Solidarity Fund
This fund was created in 2002 to assist member states that have suffered from natural disasters, such as flooding, which has so far helped 24 member states.
This aid can be used for:
1. Restoration to working order of essential infrastructure e.g. energy, water, transport, telecoms, health and education;
2. Temporary accommodation and cost of the emergency services to meet the immediate needs of the population;
3. Securing of prevention infrastructures such as dam and dykes;
4. Measures to protect the cultural heritage;
5. Cleaning up operations.