Outrage as national firms snub flood defence scheme
Last updated at 19:33, Thursday, 26 July 2012
Only a handful of national firms have contributed to Cockermouth’s flood defence scheme, it was revealed this week.
Local traders and townsfolk have put cash towards the £4.4 million defences, but fewer than five nationals have agreed to help.
Firms that have not contributed include banks Barclays and HSBC, and several chain stores.
Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham said the companies had a moral obligation to support the town and will write to chief executives to demand answers.
Jonty Chippendale, acting chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, said: “It is absolutely disgraceful. When they come to actually help their own customers and community they are too tight fisted to stand up and be counted.
“If I was a customer of a business that hadn’t contributed I would be asking them why I should remain their customer.”
The town’s 458 businesses were asked to help pay for the scheme by donating the equivalent of one per cent of their business rates – which ranged from £20 to £200 each year for the next three years to make up an £80,000 shortfall.
The Government provided £3.3 million towards the scheme.
Cumbria Community Foundation gave £100,000, and townsfolk agreed to pay an extra levy on their council tax over three years to raise £120,000.
The scheme was put together after the town was deluged in the 2009 floods.
The town’s flood action group and chamber of trade worked together to make sure Cockermouth would be protected if another flood hit and work has already started on the protection.
But it was revealed last night that the shortfall would be covered by local traders and residents.
Alan Smith, Cockermouth town councillor and Allerdale council leader, said: “What about the saying ‘we are all in it together’?
“We were in 2009 – some of us up to our necks in some parts of the town.
“These businesses were hit and came back and have been supported by the people of Cockermouth, but they don’t want to support the people of Cockermouth by contributing to the defences.
“The people of Cockermouth had a referendum and decided to dig into their own pockets in these austere times and I am appalled that these businesses aren’t contributing.
“People here are paying for their own protection against mother nature, which is not happening anywhere else in the country.”
A Barclays spokesman said the financial request was considered but it was unable to assist. He said its programme focused on improving money management skills and knowledge.
After the floods, the company pledged £50,000 to the community foundation and gave customers funding packages of £5,000 and temporary overdraft increases and set up a mobile office in Sainsbury’s and a dedicated phone line.
The spokesman added: “Barclays has a responsibility to protect our customers and colleagues when they are affected so badly by events such as the flooding which took place in 2009.
“In such times of adversity it is also vital that we play our part within the local community and look to put something back in a practical way.”
A spokesman for HSBC said it was not aware of any request for financial assistance, but said that, if there had been, they would have dealt with it sympathetically and hoped for a positive outcome.
He added that the bank had helped people in the aftermath of the floods by donating £10,000 to the North Lakes Foodbank as well as fast-tracking people’s insurance claims.
Sue Cashmore, chairman of the flood action group, said: “I want to say thank you to the local businesses but I have a sense of disappointment that the bigger businesses have not contributed.”
First published at 19:25, Thursday, 26 July 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
Have your say
What? Banks not supporting the communities in which they operate? This can't be true!Here's a suggestion - why doesn't everyone in Cockermouth close their accounts with HSBC and Barclay's and transfer their business to say, the Co-op bank.
Come on guys, be reasonable, you can't expect global multi-million pound businesses like banks etc. to hand over large sums of money to help out small towns like Cockermouth. They need that money to pay their top executives zillions of pounds in bonuses. Now, if it was a town where Cameron or his cronies live that is a whole different story, they would be queueing up to hand over the cash.
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