Anger grows over winter aid ‘snub’

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown has said the local council and Scottish government have serious questions to answer after the news that the council’s bid for £1 million of costs associated with the extreme weather conditions in March was rejected.

The council made the bid for funding through the government’s Bellwin scheme – set up to provide “special financial assistance to local authorities who would otherwise be faced with an unforeseen financial burden as a result of large-scale emergencies”.

The scheme has provided support to other parts of Scotland over the years, most recently Perthshire in November last year when floods hit the village of Comrie.

However, the Scottish government said Dumfries and Galloway Council’s bid doesn’t quality for the scheme, despite the council highlighting £1.7m of extra costs to deal with the aftermath of the extreme weather. Mr Brown said the snub was particularly embarrassing for the local SNP which in April claimed the Scottish government was set to provide financial support.

Mr Brown has written to both the council’s chief executive and Scottish finance minister John Swinney seeking an urgent explanation for the bid’s failure and also urging the Scottish government to consider financial support from other government sources.

Mr Brown said: “I am appalled that the Scottish government has concluded our region doesn’t qualify for funding under the scheme, despite the appalling conditions that hit the region in March.

“The Scottish government seems to be arguing that the costs the council asked to be reimbursed for didn’t meet the criteria and if that’s the case then the council obviously has some serious questions to answer as to why it wasn’t aware of the exact criteria when completing the application.

“Local people will be furious that other parts of Scotland hit by similar disasters in the winter have received millions of pounds from this scheme but when it comes to Dumfries and Galloway we are once again the forgotten region in the eyes of the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“This snub is particularly embarrassing for the SNP after one of its MSPs told local people in April that our region would be compensated. The reality is that it is now hard-pressed taxpayers in Dumfries and Galloway who are picking up the bill for the Scottish government’s decision to turn its back on our region.

“I have written to both the council and the Scottish government seeking an urgent explanation for this snub and calling for the government to consider financial support through other sources.”