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Flood-hit communities could face council tax increase

People in flood-hit areas could face higher council tax bills under plans being considered by ministers.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss praised Somerset - where local authorities are being allowed to increase levies by 1.25% specifically to bolster flood defences - as a "very good model".

The comments, in evidence to MPs, came as Storm Jonas battered the country, triggering alerts in many areas.

Ms Truss told the Commons Environment Committee that troops and temporary flood defences were being sent to help deal with the situation.

The Government had pledged almost £200 million to help people hit by floods earlier in the winter, including £100 million to homeowners and businesses - £46 million of which has been paid out to local authorities to distribute, she said.

The budget for maintaining flood defences is £171 million for this year - 2015/2016 - and is "protected in real terms" over the course of the Parliament, which means it will rise in line with inflation.

Ms Truss was asked about the Somerset scheme, which was signed off by ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government and allows six authorities to increase council tax by 1.25% above the cap of 2% in 2016-17.

"I think if you look at the structure for the Somerset Rivers Authority that now has the shadow precept so they are raising that funding locally and I think there's also a role for that as well," Ms Truss said.

Pressed on whether she would like to see the model rolled out in other areas, she added: "I think the Somerset Rivers Authority is a very good model."

But Labour peer Lord Clark of Windermere told the Daily Telegraph: "Flood defences are primarily a national responsibility and the Government shouldn't just pass the buck on to local authorities and in turn to local taxpayers."

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