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MPs demand quicker Government response to flooding
FASTER government help for communities suffering the misery of flooding will be demanded today, following the damage that struck this region in September.
Anne McIntosh, the Thirsk and Malton MP, will lead a Commons debate to urge ministers to investigate the working of the Bellwin scheme, which triggers emergency payouts to local authorities.
The Conservative MP will raise fears that the scheme "discriminates" against areas such as North Yorkshire, which have expansive road networks, but sparse populations.
And she will urge ministers to press the accelerator on a long-promised new deal to ensure hundreds of thousands of households at the highest risk of flooding can still get insurance.
Miss McIntosh said: "The last floods caused a lot of damage over northern Richmondshire and the south of County Durham, which roads and bridges particularly vulnerable.
"My fear is that North Yorkshire is particularly disadvantaged, because of the length of the roads that we have and because - under the Bellwin scheme - councils have to pay out money before they can claim it back.
"This issue will become more and more important if climate change means there will be many more occasions when our roads and bridges are going to be flooded."
In September, major transport routes were closed, vehicles were abandoned, hundreds of homes were flooded and people had to be evacuated, as the emergency services were stretched to their limits.
Roads and railways ground to a halt, with the A1 and the East Coast Main Line among the routes affected by the heavy downpour.
Sixteen elderly residents of a council care home in North Yorkshire had to be carried to safety by firefighters after flood defences - installed only seven years ago - failed and the home became swamped by water.
Miss McIntosh said she was concerned that North Yorkshire appeared not to have received any help from the Bellwin scheme after other floods in recent years.
Meanwhile, concern is growing over the looming expiry - in June next year - of the current voluntary deal to subsidise insurance costs for those at most risk.
Insurers have put forward a plan to create a flood fund to help pay claims, with the cash to be raised from a compulsory annual levy on all household insurance policies.
The department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), which has responsibility for flooding, is said to be sympathetic to the idea - but needs to secure the agreement of the Treasury.
Miss McIntosh added: "There is a need to reach agreement on insurance claims, with a replacement in place before the current one expires in June 2013."
The MP is the chairwoman of the all-party environment select committee, which has also raised concerns about cuts in funding for flood defences.
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