Friday, 4 February 2011

Chasing the money

So – funding for the Morpeth flood prevention scheme which politicians of all colours (not just Nick Clegg) assured us was safe – has been deferred. But Morpeth is going to fight the decision (apparently)

As I understand – EA flood protection funding has been cut by 27% for 2011-12, and with existing contractual commitments – they are left with only £19M uncommitted funding for the whole country, and first call on that is for statutory functions such as maintaining reservoirs.

Meanwhile – though the whole Morpeth Scheme costs £17M – allocation of £4M for 2011-12 will see the technical preparations, planning permission etc completed and work started on the ground. And starting the work next year is critical because the Government is consulting on new funding arrangements to start in 2012-13 which would require a significant community contribution to the cost. If we don’t get the scheme started next year, then whatever happens it won’t be funded fully by Government.

So Plan A is to lobby the EA Board (chaired by Lord [Chris] Smith) ahead of their meeting in March to fully fund the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence (NRFC) programme – the top priority of which will be the Morpeth Scheme

If this fails, then we are told that £500k will cover the costs of completing the details of the scheme, gaining planning permission etc so that work on scheme can start as soon as funding becomes available. So Plan B is to raise that £500k either from the NRFC local levy (they have discretion over a c£2M pot ) or from other sources. And the NRFC meet to confirm their programme, informed by the EA Board’s funding decisions in April.

And finally – though it is possible for the work on the scheme to be phased, it is not a good idea to break up the overall scheme since the business case for separate elements of the scheme is weaker than that for the full integrated scheme.

So – let’s tet out there and start lobbying…

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