Flood-hit homes and firms set for package of support

Oxford Mail: Oxford residents Michael and Maura Dennehy in their flooded Western Road basement when the storms hit Oxford residents Michael and Maura Dennehy in their flooded Western Road basement when the storms hit

TRADERS and residents hit with bills because of flood damage could soon benefit from support measures.

Oxford City Council is set to agree a number of measures aimed at helping those affected by the costs of the floods.

Residents who were flooded between December and March could get a discount on their council tax, which would come from a £4m Government pot.

And up to £5,000 for installing flood-proof defences in homes may also be available from a Government-funded scheme.

John Dennehy, 48, has been helping his parents, Michael and Maura Dennehy, both in their late 70s, repair their Western Road home in Oxford after the ground floor flooded to ankle-deep levels.

He said: “My parents have spent most of their time trying to get money from their insurance company, but that only covers repairs and not prevention measures.

“The whole experience has been stressful and at their age, in retirement, it is not something you want to be worrying about.

“Anything the council can do to reduce bills by cutting council tax will definitely be helpful and it also shows it cares.”

At the meeting on Thursday the city council will also be considering relief from business rates as well as up to £2,500 compensation for costs such as loss of trade.

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The Government has said it will reimburse the council for cuts in business rates and has provided a £10m pot nationally to fund payouts for losses caused directly or indirectly by the floods.

The city council has said it will put £150,000 towards funding any shortfalls.

But head of finance Nigel Kennedy has said in a report that if the requests for funding exceed the amount from the Government “the balance will need to be funded by local council taxpayers.”

Despite concerns, executive board leader Bob Price gave assurances that was not the case.

He said: “We’ve done a risk assessment and the conclusion we’ve come to is that taxpayers will not have to pay any more money than they already have.”

Oxford Wine Company’s Botley Road branch manager Lee Isaacs said: “We estimate the floods cost us between two and three thousand pounds.

“If there is a way of getting that back I think any business would be interested.”

But deputy manager of Richer Sounds Ed Railton questioned whether it was the best way to spend the money.

The home entertainment retailer, located next to Seacourt Stream on West Way, lost about £25,000 in stock because of the winter floods.

Mr Railton said: “It would be better spent on flood prevention.”

It was easy to calculate how much the firm had lost in stock, he said, but the time the shop had spent closed was also costly.

He added: “Any rebate from business rates would be very welcome.”

HOW TO APPLY

  • Oxford City Council has set up a web page where those wishing to claim can download the forms they need to fill out.
  • Businesses which qualify for the support scheme must not have a turnover larger than £41.15m and have fewer than 250 employees. Any business flooded wholly or partially qualifies for rate relief.
  • Homeowners who have been flooded for any day between December 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014 ,may apply for a council tax reduction.
  • For more information visit online at oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decEH/FloodingSupport.htm

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