Final figures show that nearly £3.5 million has been paid out to South Lakeland residents under a grant scheme to protect homes from future flooding.
Since the devastating flooding caused by Storm Desmond in 2015 a team of officers from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has worked full-time for the past two years dealing with flood grant applications, worth up to £5,000 for each eligible household.
The council has now closed the dedicated flood grant office and the officers have returned to their usual duties after processing the final applications.
Across South Lakeland 2,358 properties flooded during storms of December 2015. Of those around 1,900 were estimated to be eligible to claim under the flood grant scheme and SLDC received 1,397 applications.
The total amount of grant money paid out was £3.45 million.
These figures include a number of bulk applications from housing associations and almshouses, where grants worth £268,000 were awarded to around 100 properties.
The grants were used to fund additional measures to improve a property’s resilience or resistance to flooding, over and above any repairs that would normally be covered by insurance.
Most applicants have used the money to help install flood gates, lay concrete flooring, move electrical sockets and raise kitchen appliances such as ovens.
SLDC was charged with administering the grant scheme which was announced by the government in the aftermath of the 2015 floods.
The council’s flood grant team set to work promoting what help was available, advising households and businesses across the district and processing applications.
Drop-in sessions were held every week in Kendal Town Hall – visited by more than 500 people needing help with their applications – and the flood grant team attended flood engagement events to give advice about flood grants, including ones organised by the Environment Agency and local community groups.
The council also held its own flood fair event at K Village in Kendal.
In addition the council sent letters to every flood-affected property twice with information about the flood grants and promoted the grant scheme on its website and social media, through articles and adverts in the local press and coverage on TV and radio.
The team worked with numerous voluntary and third sector organisations helping communities and businesses on flood recovery, including Age UK, Red Cross and the Federation for Small Business and provided training for voluntary groups and local councillors to assist residents to apply for grants.
The council even engaged a community enterprise group to knock on doors in areas where there was a low take-up of the grants to encourage people to apply.
Councillor David Fletcher, SLDC’s portfolio holder for the Environment, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to help so many people to better protect their homes and businesses from flooding.
“Our officers have worked extremely hard for the past two years to inform, advise and support residents and businesses. To have such a high proportion of eligible properties in South Lakeland applying for this grant is a fantastic achievement.
“It is also worth reminding our residents that, although the funding for the grants came from the government, SLDC received no contribution towards the considerable task of administrating the grants and we have had to meet these costs – which came in at just over £190,000 – from our own budgets.
“We always made it our priority to ensure that the measures being installed would be effective and that the householder or business would be better protected in the event of future flooding.
“This sometimes meant the process took quite a while as we carried out the necessary checks, but we were determined to do the job properly, to get the best solutions for our communities and get the best value out of the grant monies available.
“Not only has the team helped all these people to successfully claim the grant, but they have also, through their diligence and careful checks, been able to protect precious public funds by identifying bogus applications. This has resulted in three successful fraud prosecutions, where applicants made false claims to try to get money from the flood grant fund.’’