A council's excuse for failing to pay out grants to flood victims was blown apart by a Dumfries trader today (Thursday).
Dumfries and Galloway's Labour run council said they failed to pay £700,000 allocated to it for New Year flooding victims because the money was restricted to Storm Desmond victims in early December.
But Carol Williamson of Ivano’s on the Whitesands today revealed that she was flooded by Storm Desmond and was still refused the grant of £1500 which Finance Minister John Swinney allocated to the council in December.
Carol approach council officers afterwards and was told ‘we don't know anything about a grant’.
“The Labour led council should be held to account for not informing the public almost 1 month ago about the flat grant of £1500.
“To withhold this hope of help to flood victims is a crime in my opinion.
“They have suffered stress and trauma and need help not bureaucrats hiding funds and only letting them know when they see fit. This was money allocated by the Scottish Government they should have acted like decent compassionate humans.”
Carol approached MSP Joan McAlpine for help, after the SNP politician pressured the council into finally putting the detail of the grants on its website earlier this week.
Several victims have now been paid their allocations.
Earlier this week a row broke out in Holyrood, when a heated exchange ended with the Deputy First Minister calling on the council to ‘pay up to the people and stop finding excuses.’
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“I’m glad people are finally getting the help they need, but it begs the question why Labour councillors were claiming they were unable to give people the grants as late as last week but are now suddenly able to do so.”
This month the Scottish Government allocated another £1m to Dumfries and Galloway. The councillor responsible for flooding relief, Colin Smyth convenor of the economy committee, at first claimed that they would not get the money until March – but it was later revealed, including by an angry John Swinney in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament, that this is the normal way to pay councils and they had never had a problem with it before. Dumfries and Galloway have emergency reserves of £6.8 million and unspent government grants of £2.38million.
After that excuse was exposed Cllr Smyth changed tack and told local media the council had not paid out because they believed the money was restricted to Storm Desmond. Ms McAlpine said:
“That excuse is now underwater as well.”
Ms McAlpine urged all those affected throughout January and February to get their claims in – including businesses who were unable to operate and who could qualify for a £3000 grant.
“The government isn’t splitting hairs about which storm when. They have made it clear that they have allocated £1.7m to help people affected by the recent flooding in Dumfries and Galloway and the responsibility for distribution is with the council. Anyone who thinks they are eligible should go to the council website or call them an apply. As of this week there is another £3000 grant to help businesses who could not trade and I look forward to hearing how that is being distributed.”