Ministers under pressure from Halifax MP as millions lost for flood hit towns

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MINISTERS are coming under growing pressure to account for millions of pounds of funding which was supposed to benefit flood-hit communities.

The Government is being asked to explain why as much as £2.5m may have been spent on administrative costs linked to a bid for European Union cash in the wake of the Boxing Day 2015 floods which hit Yorkshire.

Answers are also being demanded over why the majority of the money successfully secured from Brussels was used to pay off a long-standing debt to the EU.

Ministers have further failed to explain why the Government made a far more modest request for help following the 2015 floods compared to the appeal it made in the aftermath of those in 2007.

The Government initially appeared reluctant to submit a request to the EU solidarity fund following the December 2015 floods amid suggestion Eurosceptic ministers did not want to draw attention to benefits of EU membership ahead of last June’s referendum.

A request was eventually made but in a statement earlier this year the Government said EU funding rules, the repayment of an outstanding debt to Brussels and administrative costs had accounted for almost all the money secured from the fund.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch has now written to Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy, the Brigg and Goole MP, calling for a detailed explanation of the bid process and how the money promised by the EU was accounted for and requested him to meet MPs in flood-hit constituencies.

Her letter says: “Despite a number of specific written questions requesting further transparency on the recent application you have repeatedly failed to provide me with the information I have requested.”

The EU initially awarded the UK around £50m from the Solidarity Fund. In its statement in January, the Government said the costs of bidding to the fund, and the impact of the UK rebate on its EU budget contributions negotiated in the 1980s, lowered that figure to around £15m.

Ministers revealed £14.5m had been used to repay Brussels after money secured in the wake of the 2007 floods was judged to have been spent outside EU rules.

However, it is unclear why the Government had not already repaid that money when the issues with the 2007 spending had been known since at least 2013.

Analysis carried out for Ms Lynch suggests the Government could have earmarked up to £2.5m of the Solidarity Fund cash for administrative costs surrounding the 2016 bid.

A DCLG spokesman said: “We continue to strongly support flood-affected communities, with almost £300m already provided over the past year to help people get back on their feet.

“Under EU rules, the EU Solidarity Funding can only be used to reimburse public sector costs of responding to emergencies and the subsequent recovery, so cannot be paid directly to individual households or businesses. We continue to work closely with councils in the affected areas.”