Another week of flood damage in the North of England and Scotland, and still the Tory Government is unwilling to act
As the repercussions of the floods drag on, this week in the European Parliament during a committee meeting and in private, I asked Corina Crețu, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, if the UK was eligible to apply for the EU Solidarity Fund. This is a special pot of money, accessible to all 28 EU Member States and accession countries, to help deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster such as forest fires, earthquakes, drought and floods.
It can pay for the cost of restoring essential infrastructure, provision of temporary accommodation for disaster victims and also fund clean-up operations, amongst many other measures. The fund is quick and easy to access and can cover costs already incurred, but the government must apply within 12 weeks of the disaster occurring.
Crețu not only said that the UK was welcome to apply, but if the Tory Government had already done so, then the affected areas would have immediately received 10% of the funding available. Just think about the difference that such a sizeable chunk of money could have made to the citizens of Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whose homes and businesses have been destroyed by the floods.
I stated to the Commissioner:
"I am the only MEP with an office in the county of Cumbria, which was at the epicentre of the floods in the UK just before Christmas and which continued into the New Year. It is going to be hugely, hugely important for these communities to access regional development funding in order to rebuild and reconstruct, particularly if my government, shamefully, does not apply for the EU Solidarity Fund which is available to it."
"Of course, the UK is entitled to apply for the Solidarity Fund. We have not received until now any requests at the European Commission - we just share solidarity with the people of Cumbria, and we would like to help. They have 12 weeks since the start [of the flooding]. But it's a pity in my view; it's my personal view that it's a mathematical equation of the UK government not to show that they need EU money. But we have this instrument that is very helpful because by now we could have released 10%..."
Just before Christmas, the UK was hit by three storms Desmond, Eva and Frank. However, it seems that the worst storm is yet to come, that of the Tory Government who, in a nonsensical political battle against the EU, continues to reject the tools that could be used to rebuild people's lives.