Prime minister David Cameron has announced a package of measures designed to help UK businesses based in in the North of England recover from recent flooding – with the focus on encouraging tourists to the area. But the plans have been met with harsh criticism.
Cameron said: “From York Minster to Honister Mine, Carlisle Castle to the Leeds Armouries, the north has some of the most iconic tourist attractions the UK has to offer. So it is absolutely right that we do everything we can to make sure these businesses feel supported and ready to receive visitors.
“The measures we’ve announced today are an important step, showcasing the best the region’s tourist industry has to offer while helping one of its key attractions in the Lake District National Park get back on its feet.”
However, Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, argued that the money pledged was not sufficient to help the region’s economy recover: “This money is nowhere enough to get Cumbria back on its feet following the floods. With an estimated £500m of damage to our infrastructure, including £20m in the Lake District National Park alone, today’s funding announcement is totally inadequate.”
Some 85 per cent of workplaces in Cumbria – one of the counties worst-affected by the recent flooding – are micro firms. In 2014, tourism contributed more than £23bn to the economy in the North as a whole, but hospitality firms in the region have reported a drop in bookings of up to 60 per cent since the floods hit.
The package is to include £2m of government funding for fixing bridges, rebuilding walls and restoring footpaths. An additional £1m will be spent on a marketing campaign promoting the Lake District as an Easter holiday destination.
Companies that have been directly impacted by the flooding are also eligible to apply to receive money from a £6m flood recovery grant pot.
Other commentators have called for businesses themselves to be more prepared for future disasters. Ian Joyner, a flood risk consultant at property consultancy CBRE said: “After a flood, the focus is too often placed on the response of government agencies and whether enough money has been invested in flood prevention, but no level of investment into flood defence will completely protect communities against the potential for a bigger flood, or an unforeseen disaster.
“For businesses, understanding and managing the risk of flooding can be critical, and business owners should be checking their risk using online public flood maps, seeking expert advice and planning for the worst by keeping business-critical systems and materials away from potential danger.”
If you’re considering insuring your micro business against future flood risk, don’t miss our guide to some of the jargon you might encounter
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.