Funding Formula for Flooding

A Moray Christmas morning ruined, a Shetland peat flood on hill croft houses, an Ardgay home abandoned for six months.

These are the kinds of experiences MSP Peter Peacock is hearing following his appeal to the people of the North to give him their stories for a Parliamentary Inquiry.

The Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP is gathering evidence on the effects of flooding and the measures local people think can be put in place to prevent it happening to them again.

And Mr Peacock is calling for action now on a new funding formula to ensure investment is made available to protect communities in the north from the effects of flooding, following changes in the minority SNP governmentís funding policies for local government.

His call comes following a briefing from Officials at Highland Council who are working on schemes to alleviate flooding across the region and a week after the anniversary of the major floods that hit Dingwall and many other parts of the Highlands.

Peter Peacock said: "I have been contacted by many people from across the Highlands with their experience of flooding.

"I have had letters from residents in Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Newtonmore, Dornoch and many other communities.

"The disruption, misery and anguish caused by flooding takes a huge toll on those affected, and we are seeing more and more flooding as climate changes take effect.

"The briefing I have had from Highland Council illustrates the scale of the problem with many schemes requiring work and new planning being required as we anticipate more flooding events in future.

"Such is the scale of the problem that the Scottish Parliament, quite independent of government, is starting a major inquiry into flooding, changing weather patterns and whether our law and administrative practices are fit to manage the increased flooding we all anticipate over future years.

"The inquiry will report next year sometime, and the evidence Highland Council can give will be invaluable, but there are urgent changes in policy needed now to help Councils make key investments.

"The Highland Council faces a huge bill to make the necessary investments to help prevent flooding affecting peoplesí homes over coming years.

"Sadly, their ability to do so has been all but removed from them by one consequence of the minority SNP governmentís policy on freezing council tax.

"Councils have traditionally had to make a 20% contribution to the costs of significant flood protection schemes, as well as now having to increase spending on maintenance of gulleys and culverts, for example, to keep drainage systems clear.

"With Councilís being told to freeze their Council tax it becomes almost impossible for them to find the necessary cash to do their bit. In the circumstances the minority nationalist government really have an obligation to meet the bills 100% and that is what I am calling on them to do.

"Thankfully the recent spending review has given the minority nationalist government twice as much money as Donald Dewar had at his disposal only some 8 years ago.

"Within a £30 billion budget flooding needs to get a higher priority and Councils need the extra support to overtake the vital work they need done."

Peter Peacock will be writing to the minority nationalist government seeking a change in policy.


31 October 2007

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