THE Prime Minister visited flood-hit Upton where he praised the town's excellent flood defences and said the town was "open for business".
David Cameron met with West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin, business leaders and dignitaries during round table talks in a back room of the Ye Old Anchor Inn today as he announced a £10 million support plan for flood-hit businesses.
Mr Cameron, dressed in a dark jacket and green wellies, told journalists he did not accept the Government only took action on flooding after communities on the Thames were affected.
He said: "I don't accept that. There were terrible floods in 2007 and after that many flood defences were put in place. Flood defences have made a real difference, protecting hundreds of homes. I'm determined to visit every part of the country to see the work that has been done and needs to be done." During the meeting he said he thought dredging could make a difference and that the pendulum swung too much against it in the last 90s. He said: "The flood defences have worked here in Upton. The most important thing to say is 'these towns and cities are open for business'. We have a set of flood defences planned for this year and next year and beyond that to be built in Worcestershire and they will make a difference."
The pub's landlord Grahame Bunn, who met the PM, said: "We're really pleased with the Environment Agency. They are getting such bad press but the job they have done here is fantastic. I can't praise them enough.The road into the town is not just for access - it's the main road to Malvern. It is so important to get that sorted so it stays open. It has been shut for two weeks. I think the Prime Minister took on board what I said. We have been pumping flood water out of the cellar for three weeks but, with the flood defences, the water won't come up the road."
Mrs Baldwin said: "I was delighted to welcome the Prime Minister to Upton to see how the community is bouyant and open for businesses.
"The flood defences have worked well and the army have been brilliant helping people to get access to the town.
"The Prime Minister was able to say some re-assuring things about future measures to further protect the town but the message is clear that Upton is open for business."
The PM also met soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment, including OC Major Darren McCleery who has been leading flood relief in the town.
The Mayor of Upton Peter Webb and his wife Rosemary met the PM. Mr Webb said: "When he talks to you he, he remembers you. He remembers your name and makes you feel as if he is talking to you and listening to you. A lot of politicians don't seem to do that.
"He was a very likeable man and when he left we thought what a nice chap. The only criticism made was the slow response. It would have been better if the army had been here a bit sooner."
Annette Keyworth who runs Value for Money in the town and chairs Upton Tourism and Trade Association also met the PM. She said: "He's very aware of the situation and what is going on. He understands businesses, not just where they have been flooded, but the effect because the main arteries of the town have been closed. There is only one way in and one way out. The flood defences have held and done a fantastic job. " However, she said trade was 50 per cent down on last year because of the floods and they had not been able to get deliveries in. She said: "The army are doing a very good job and the Environment Agency have been working 24/7 and I can't fault Harriett Baldwin. She is fully aware of what we're trying to achieve here."
Support announced by the Prime Minister
* A new Business Support Scheme worth up to £10million to provide hardship funding for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. Eligible businesses will be able to claim for funding for things like immediate clean-up costs, materials, and exceptional costs to help them continue trading.
* Businesses will also get extra time to file accounts without any penalties. If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension and not collect the penalties which apply for late filings.
• A Government Business Support Helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. The Helpline will offer a free one hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now.
* Alongside this Government action, the Government also welcomes the initiative from Enterprise Nation to bring together big business offers of assistance to small firms affected by the floods. These offer of assistance include:
• Regus, the global workspace provider with 220 business centres across the UK, is coming to the aid of businesses by offering free workspace to workers affected by the floods. Those who cannot work in their normal location – whether that’s an office or their home – will be given free access to the business lounge within any Regus centre, providing professional workspace, wifi and complementary refreshments.
• Citrix has pledged to support small businesses affected by the floods by letting them use GoToMeeting free on a trial basis for up to 3 months (90 days) for quick and easy online meetings with employees and customers. GoToMeeting is quick to install and allows you to connect face-to-face and work with people important to your business via a mobile, tablet or PC wherever you or they happen to be.