As Britain faces it’s wettest winter for 250 years and the worst flooding in decades, many hundreds of properties and businesses have been flooded.
The most serious developing situation is in the Thames Valley where hundreds of properties have been flooded, and thousands more are under threat as river levels continue to rise. The are also fears today that the River Severn could burst its banks, causing further flooding misery.
Furthemore, The MET Office has issued a severe weather warning as another huge storm blows in to the UK today. Winds of 100 miles per hour are predicted for northern and western parts of Wales, extending into the north of England.
In a rare press conference yesterday, the UK Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron said money was ‘no object’ in the relief effort dealing with the floods, which have now extended beyond the devastated Somerset Levels and huge tidal surges on the east coast of the UK and Cork in Ireland to cause chaos on the banks of the Thames and beyond.
There are currently 16 severe flood warnings (14 on the River Thames and two in the South West near Moorland and Burrowbridge) and over 250 further flood warnings and alerts in force across the country.
With no sign of this threat abating, the prime minister admitted things may well get worse before they get better. He has been visiting flood-beleaguered areas such as the Somerset Levels, and Dawlish, where the rail line was destroyed when the sea wall was destroyed by the force of the waves, he also visited areas in the Thames Valley, that have been devastated by the floods over the past two days.
The military has been drafted in to assist local residents and the emergency services cope with the extreme weather and resulting flooding in Somerset and the Thames Valley.
As, and when, the flood waters recede, the government has pledged to help people and businesses recover. Its focus will be on getting insurance companies to deal with claims quickly, and is in talks with insurance firms and industry bodies to develop schemes to help further. Local authorities are also being given a helping hand and are now able to claim back 100% of the flood cost from central government.
For home owners, grants to help build better flood protection have been promised as they repair their properties. For business, Cameron promised a business tax deferral scheme to help those businesses affected by floods to give them longer to pay their taxes, and again grants to help them improve their flood defences, and for farmers government announced it will be establishing funding to release £10 million to help them recover from this serious threat to their livelihoods.
[Updated] More details about these schemes have been announced, and today’s HMRC announcement* is published below.
There will be many lessons to be learned from these severe weather events and the ensuing flooding, but the focus for now must be on protecting people and properties at risk as the stormy weather continues…
*HMRC has today launched a new telephone helpline for anyone affected by the recent floods.
The helpline will enable anyone affected to get fast, practical help and advice on a wide range of tax problems they may be facing.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will also:
- agree instalment arrangements where taxpayers are unable to pay as a result of the floods;
- agree a practical approach when individuals and businesses have lost vital records to the floods;
- suspend debt collection proceedings for those affected by the floods;
- cancel penalties when the taxpayer has missed statutory deadlines.
The helpline is in addition to other HMRC telephone contact numbers.
The helpline is 0800 904 7900. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 8.00 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, excluding bank holidays.