Finance Secretary applies UK Barnett consequentials funding for flood relief to offer assistance to affected councils

With £9 million for flood relief already in his pocket from the latest Barnett consequentials payments from the UK Government – and undoubtedly much more to come, Finance Secretary, John Swinney, is using the money to open the standing ‘Bellwin Scheme’ for local authorities.

This is a discretionary scheme to give financial assistance to councils who face an undue financial burden as a result of large-scale emergencies.

There is no automatic entitlement to assistance and local authorities are expected to include a small amount within their annual budget to deal with unforeseen emergencies.

Ministers will consider emergency financial assistance for any local authority to help deal with the costs of flood damage that occurred in the aftermath of Storm Frank.

If this incident does not qualify for extra funding it can be included in any further claims in 2015-16.

The Barnett Consequentials are an add-on to the annual Barnett Formula funding allocated to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

When, in any year that the UK Government has to spend on unbudgeted projects in England and Wales, a percentage of the new spending – based proportionately on population size – goes automatically to the governments of the major devolved administrations.

Scotland’s gets 10% of the value of every additional spend.

After the pre-Christmas floods in early December, Chancellor George Osborne announced an immediate £40 million in relief for affected areas in England; and that he was therefore sending £4 million to Scotland, where Hawick in particular had been badly hit.

Mr Swinney announced this £4 million for flood relief in his own budget later in December – without acknowledging its source.

When Storm Frank came drenching in at and after Christmas with renewed and new flooding on a even more widespread basis, the Chancellor announced a further £50 million of immediate assistance to affected areas in England and Wales, bringing another £5 million to Scotland.

The UK Government has also committed to substantial new investment – several hundred million pounds – in flood defences for England and Wales – and when that happens, 10% of that value will be additionally allocated to Scotland.

The thing about Barnett Consequentials funding is that the money does not have to be spent by the receiving government on the function for which it has been allocated. That is discretionary.

The £9 million already allocated to Scotland has come to us specifically from the need for immediate relief from the consequences of the current floods – and it should be spent only on that. There is an undeniable need for it.

The further money to come later will have been allocated from investment in new flood defences for England and wales – and again the Scottish allocation,  in this situation, ought to be spent only on that, because the imperative for effective flood defence is irrefutable.

It will be important for the councils for the badly flood-affected areas, like the Scottish  Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, to keep a very sharp eye on the totals of the extra amounts coming to Scotland from these needs and make quite sure that the new funding is actually spent on flood relief  and investment in flood defences.

The Finance Secretary’s now known – and failed – gamble on removing the budget for repair and maintenance work on the Forth Road Bridge, was a wake up call to all those, including ourselves, who had assumed his sense of responsibility in financial management.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • What absolute keech have you penned here Newsroom.

    The Forth Road Bridge three week emergency repair closure was the fault of John Swinney and the removal of tolls.

    And now it seems are the floods as you advise him to spread the few millions provided in the last Westminster budget allocation.

    I don’t know what technical solutions you have in mind for the £4m – but based on pro rata population allocation that you talk about, that’s about £90k for Argyll and Bute. You should therefore let us have your wisdom as to how this largesse is to be spent.
    In the meantime I note that the ABI are putting the cost of last week’s Storm Eva in England at £5,600,000,000. Drop, ocean are words that come to mind – but pray tell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

    willie December 31, 2015 10:55 am Reply
  • So here is the challenge, and it’s open to all ForArgyll readers.

    With billions of tonnes of rain falling on Scotland within something like 6 hours, what should John Swinney do.

    Let’s keep it to Argyll – and politicians, especially aspiring ones hopeful of retaining or even regaining a seat, are requested to come up with their schemes.
    Everything from wind deflectors to moving mountains can be considered but in doing so a brief indication of cost would be helpful. With £90k from Westminster already using Newsie’s figure we’ve got a ‘ head ‘ start.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

    willie December 31, 2015 11:06 am Reply
  • And who will be the first to break from the traps – Jackie Baillie?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

    willie December 31, 2015 11:11 am Reply
  • Willie, do you know what the ABI are? Why can’t Swinney identify the council’s/people who need help and arrange for direct payment or is this the same as the ‘steel’ promise?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    Richard December 31, 2015 11:24 am Reply

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