BURNHAM MP Tessa Munt has called on the Government to apply for a grant from the regional disaster fund, part of the European Union Solidarity Fund, without further delay.
The Solidarity Fund was created after severe flooding in Central Europe in 2002, and is designed to respond with grants to Member States after major natural disasters or drought.
Ms Munt raised the need to ask for European grant funding when Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government Secretary, was called to the House of Commons to answer questions about the worsening floods faced by Somerset’s residents and businesses.
She asked: “The European Union Commissioner responsible for these matters has made it clear that regional disaster funding is available, with no minimum limit. The Government can define the size of the affected region, and the funding can be made available provided that: serious and lasting damage has occurred that there have been repercussions for economic stability and living conditions in the region and that 50% of people living there are affected.
Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that Somerset clearly qualifies for such funding, and will he ask his colleagues at Defra to apply for it without delay?”
Speaking from Westminster, Ms Munt said: “There is a pot of money sitting in Brussels as we speak.The Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, has said that money could be channelled to help the communities in Somerset worst affected by this disaster. “In order to get help, Eric Pickles, George Osborne and Owen Patterson need to apply to the European Union within the time limit of ten weeks from the first day of this disaster.
“We taxpayers pay into Europe, and it’s time we asked for help – that’s what we pay for, it’s only fair and it’s what Somerset deserves.
“I don’t know how much more serious George Osborne thinks the flooding can get – but this help is available for precisely this sort of catastrophe.
“I’m calling on Eric Pickles, George Osborne and Owen Patterson to apply for this money without further delay. I’ve even sent them the application forms they need to fill out, so they don’t have to waste more time looking for them.
The EUSF has an annual budget of £411million. In 2007 and 2008, the UK received £31million, which was used in Gloucestershire for the flooding there.
Graham Watson, Lib Dem MEP for the South West, has met Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner responsible for the EU solidarity fund, who has given him an assurance that the UK could apply at a regional disaster level.