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5,000 are given a temporary council tax and rates holiday

An estimated 5,000 households and companies forced from their properties by flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire are to be given temporary relief from council tax and business rates.

The tax waiver was agreed at a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee in Whitehall as thousands of people across the north of England and Scotland were clearing up after Storm Desmond.

Ministers were told that the situation on the ground was improving following the weekend's record rainfall, but that emergency services remain on "high alert" with more heavy rain forecast.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for wind and rain in northern England and Scotland, with gusts up to 70mph predicted today.

Chris Wilding, the Environment Agency's flood risk manager, said: "Teams are checking and maintaining defences, clearing blockages in rivers, monitoring water levels and working with local flood wardens in the areas worst affected."

The Cobra meeting, which was chaired by the Communities Secretary Greg Clark, heard that power has been restored to all properties in Lancashire which lost electricity during the storms, while the lights were back on in Cumbria with the exception of buildings which have had to be left empty due to flooding.

Police said there had been "isolated incidents" of flooded properties being looted by "opportunistic individuals".

On Monday a burglary in Carlisle saw alcohol and cash worth £4,000 stolen.

Tools worth £3,000 were also stolen from a flooded property in Penrith.

Extra police patrols have been deployed in areas that have been severely affected by flooding.

Virgin Trains reopened West Coast Main Line rail services through Cumbria and military engineers have been assisting highways authorities in getting roads back into use.

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