Council left in the dark over flood response

Northumberland County Council has criticised the launch of a new map aimed at showing the county is open for business following winter floods .

Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 6:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 11:13 am
A view of flooding down into Wooler.

The new interactive map was launched by Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton and aims to give traders, tourists and residents the chance to put details of their local businesses online, to show they are open for business.

However the government didn’t let anyone at the council know the details of their proposal until the scheme had actually gone live - and a news release was issued by central government.

The interactive map offers real-time updates on the businesses that have re-opened in the wake of the floods, with information crowd-sourced from businesses and their customers.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “It’s disappointing that we are doing all we can to try and support businesses and residents get back on their feet, but the government doesn’t have the courtesy to fully brief us about a major new initiative in our county before it goes live.

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“We are already supporting businesses through business rate relief, business support grants and offering grants to make their premises more resilient and resistant to future flooding and the majority of the 90 affected businesses in the county are back up and running and continuing to trade.

“And while on one hand Mr Wharton said his government are determined to do everything they can to support those businesses affected by flooding this winter, they have been very quiet in letting us know if we are getting any of the funding we desperately need following our flood damage.

“The lack of feedback from government to our requests is worrying,” he added.

The floods in the aftermath of storms in December and January affected more than 80 local businesses in Northumberland, along with hundreds of homes.

The damage to infrastructure alone amounted to £24 million. This includes an estimated £6.5 million on bridges, £8.8 million on landslips and over £7 million on roads and drainage.

The council has written to the government calling for financial support but has yet to hear what, if any level of funding to repair infrastructure it may receive.

Those wanting to upload details of companies re-opening in flood-affected areas can visit http://communities.maps.arcgis.com/apps/GeoForm/index.html?appid=ceeb04f94f36408abda8c545bab24eaa where they can complete a simple form with details of the business – including location and opening times.

Anyone uploading details will also be able to tweet them, using the dedicated #OpenforBusiness hashtag.

Cllr Davey added: “While we welcome any initiatives to help the county get back on its feet and remind people we are open for business, it would be useful if the government ensured it was getting its communications with local authorities right.”

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “As flood-affected businesses get back on their feet and open their doors to customers, we’re determined to do everything we can to support them.

“It is disappointing to hear these comments and completely untrue that the council weren’t briefed on the map.

“A representative from Northumberland Council takes part in a weekly meeting with Government Ministers where it has been discussed prior to the launch.”