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South Holland District Council is still waiting for Internal Drainage Board money promised by Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove in January

Four months on from the Government’s promise to give vital extra cash to fund our drainage boards, a frustrated council finance chief is still waiting to hear when the money will arrive.

Coun Paul Redgate says South Holland District Council has not received details of its share of a £3million package promised by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove in January to help authorities with internal drainage board (IDB) levies – and has slammed it as a ‘token sum’.

While the council is still waiting for the figure to be confirmed, the finance portfolio holder says he is ‘disappointed’ with the expected amount as it will not cover the increase in costs expected after the pumps have been running for much longer due to the wet weather.

Coun Paul Redgate
Coun Paul Redgate

The district council has increased its share of the council tax by 3.09% - but the additional £268,000 that will raise will all go towards meeting the soaring costs of the drainage boards, which are protecting our homes. That means none of the cash raised can go towards services - and that local rate payers are being asked to bear the burden for a service that has further use than just protecting south Lincolnshire residents - with water handled from elsewhere and vital crop-growing land protected.

And Coun Redgate fears that if the Government money does not arrive by the end of June, it will take even longer to appear due to the forthcoming General Election – and is once more calling for a sustainable funding solution for drainage boards.

He estimated that funding all drainage boards in the country would cost £45 to £50million. The Government has already committed £290million to its flagship troubled Rwanda scheme.

Welland and Internal Drainage Board Chief Executive Karen Daft and the Pode Hole pumping station
Welland and Internal Drainage Board Chief Executive Karen Daft and the Pode Hole pumping station

Coun Redgate has stressed that without a long-term solution for the funding of drainage boards – the council will have some stark decisions to make with regards to services.

He said: “We are still waiting for the money.

“I am very disappointed with the amount. If you look back at 23/24 (financial year) it’s a similar amount to that. When you consider the increase in costs for IDBs and flooding and continuous running of the pumps, the amount they are going to give doesn’t incorporate the increase they gave us last time. They have just given us a slight top-up. In real terms we are down in the amount we had last year.

The Pode Hole Pumping Station helps to keep South Holland free from flooding
The Pode Hole Pumping Station helps to keep South Holland free from flooding

“Up to 50% of our council tax goes to IDBs, anything that comes from central government will help to reduce the costs of council tax.

“If the amount of rainfall we are seeing globally, nationally and locally keeps going then the costs of operating IDBs means we are going to have to make a decision about keeping our houses safe and feet dry and delivering core services. Something has to give.

“Public safety around preventing flooding will take priority. That is the stark decision that we may have to come to if the funding solution isn’t resolved. We can’t keep putting up council tax. If council tax goes up to 5% it doesn’t cover the costs of the IDBs. Something has to give at some point.

“The IDBs do a thankless and incredible job with the resources they have.”

Coun Redgate has been leading a special interest group of councils which has been calling on the Government to look at the funding of drainage boards.

He said the special interest group has shown the ‘big picture’ of the challenges faced by affected councils across the country.

Coun Redgate said: “Funding for the IDBs would cost £45-50million which in the grand scheme of things for the government is a drop in the ocean.

“If you look at what IDBs do, they deal with water created by rainfall in central England - which doesn’t contribute and we pick up the cost.

“With the special interest group we are 31 councils coming together and now we have a voice. We are trying to get that voice louder and louder. For me the message is that I am driving this, I am not letting this go. This will benefit everyone - every single council tax payer.

“I would love to see next year that the council tax doesn’t go up or drops a little on our part because we have a sustainable amount.”

We have approached the Department for Levelling Up for a comment.

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