Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Recovering from Desmond - the European Solidarity Fund

Recovering from the Flood and Storm damage inflicted by Desmond will take every available resource, and our MEP Sajjad Karim has been working to promote the possibility of a bid for funding for Cumbria from the European Solidarity fund.

Whilst Cumbria is currently still assessing the damage and fallout from Storm Desmond, there is no doubt that this is an unparalleled county-wide disaster.
 
Sajjad believes  that the devastation caused by the flooding should qualify Cumbria for funding from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) which was set up to respond to major natural disasters within Europe, as a “Regional Disaster”. The fund would not meet all the costs associated with the disaster but it might be a significant help. It is intended to back up public expenditure in:
 
·        Restoring infrastructure and plant in the fields of energy, water and waste water, telecommunications, transport, health and education
 
·        Providing temporary accommodation and funding rescue services to meet the needs of the population
 
·        Securing preventive infrastructure and measures of protection of cultural heritage;
 
·        Cleaning up disaster-stricken areas, including natural zones, in line with, where appropriate, eco-system based approaches, as well as immediate restoration of affected natural zones to avoid immediate effects from soil erosion.
 
EUSF does not cover longer term remedial actions such as reconstruction, flood prevention measures etc but Cumbria could well qualify for assistance from Structural Funds and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development for this sort of remedial development.
 
Applications for funding from the European Union Solidarity Fund have to be submitted by the Member State. It has to be received by the European Commission within 12 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the disaster. Costs associated with the emergency measures can be financed retrospectively from the day of the disaster.
 
The Commission then evaluates the application and if accepted, proposes an amount of aid to the European Parliament and the Council who have to approve it before it can be paid out.
 
Once the decision to award funding is confirmed the money is paid out immediately in a single instalment to the national government concerned, which  is then responsible for disseminating the funds and their audit and control.
 
In recent years in has been a practice of the UK government to devolve the funds direct to the local authority who have evaluated how best to utilise them.
 
 
 
In the event of regional disasters the total direct damage claim can be up to 1.5% of GDP. This means Cumbria could quality for around €165m in Solidarity Fund payments.
 
 
The minister who would have to make the application is The Rt Hon Greg Clarke MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and I understand that a number of local government leaders in Cumbria are writing to Greg encouraging him to make such an application.

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