Skip navigation

Indymedia UK is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues

Tornado relief: No cash available – sort yourselves out!

Rosie | 03.08.2005 01:27 | Ecology | Social Struggles | Birmingham

There was an article in The Guardian newspaper on Monday 1 August with the headline 'Tornado victims get cash grants' which made it sound like the lovely fluffy government was going to be handing out money to tornado affected residents.,,1539962,00.html

This is wrong. The article refers to the Bellwin scheme under which
the national government makes grants to local authorities in the case of severe weather incidents such as Boscastle and Birmingham (see for terms of the scheme.)

This scheme provides money for the Local Authority ONLY for clearing up fallen trees (but not replanting them), mending any roads and pavements and street furniture damaged by the event, providing emergency accommodation and employing extra contractors i.e. like the people with the hydraulic platforms etc.

Roger Godsiff on film (attached below) also stated at a public meeting on Saturday 30th July that this is the case and that it doesn't translate into money for hard hit individuals.

Under the terms of the scheme it also looks unlikely that the council
will get any assistance with repairing Nelson Mandela or Ladypool schools because it is expected that they meet this out of their capital budgets. In effect the Bellwin scheme seems to be about mopping up' and not genuine reconstruction.

The Guardian journo probably wrote his article from London as it also speaks about local residents not being allowed past cordons unless they have the right ID! Anyone effected knows this arrangement had lapsed by Saturday morning.

On the other hand, the government seems to believe that it's morally reprehensible to not be insured against such incidents - the last of which occurred in this area in 1931 and which caused far less damage.

At the public meeting on 30th July another resident questioned why this should be - after all when responding to international crises we don't ask questions about whether the people involved were properly insured.

Balsall Heath is a deprived area of Birmingham, one which the present government has only been too ready to hold up in the past as a shining example of a community regenerating itself. There are high levels of unemployment here - but it seems to be expected that residents should have been spending their dole money on home contents insurance in case of a completely freak weather event occurring.

General perceptions of crime rates in the area - in spite of the fact that crime rates have been falling - mean that insurance premiums are very high. This is also the responsibility of this and previous governments who have whipped up hysteria about crime rates and fear of crime to such an extent that no amount of sticking big signs on police vans to say that crime is falling now makes any difference to public perception. This in turn creates a climate in which insurance companies can charge large premiums unchallenged.

The people of Balsall Heath are dealing with damage to homes and businesses and the resulting displacement, damaged schools and damage to public green spaces in which their children usually play. They don't need their faces rubbed in it by government suggesting that not taking out insurance is a sign of moral laxitude.

In terms of buildings insurance as far as I understand it, this is linked to mortgage levels and not market prices so if you bought your property 5 years ago, the insurance pay out if the building has to be demolished will not be enough to buy another property in the area. I asked Godsiff about this but have not yet heard back from him.