Row over flood fund for Malmesbury victims
9:13am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in News
A ROW has boiled up over a fund for victims of flooding in Malmesbury after it was revealed some faced Christmas without the bare essentials for living.
More than £10,000 in donations was raised for the appeal fund started by mayor Ray Sanderson when November’s deluge saw more than a dozen homes inundated with up to three feet of water.
When they met just before Christmas the trustees decided the bulk of the cash should be spent on buying furniture and appliances when victims are rehoused permanently. But the delay has triggered anger in the town and a rift in the council, which was set to be discussed in a behind closed doors meeting this week.
Wiltshire and town councillor Simon Killane said: “The whole thing, to my mind is an absolute shambles.”
When he went to the event organised by the One Show on December 19 he met residents who still did not have the basic essentials for living, including one couple who had no way of cooking.
Having approached Knees and got a discounted price for a small freezer and a hob, he made a request for funding to Cllr Sanderson, but was told it would have to wait for a trustees meeting.
Cllr Killane admitted: “I lost my temper and went into the store and bought the stuff myself.”
He also met other victims who had lost virtually everything but had nothing from the fund. They had been helped by family, friends and other charities.
“The problem is it is almost too late because these people needed to be helped pretty much immediately. This is several weeks on from the flood.”
Victims were too proud to beg, he added.
Colleague Cllr Kim Power, said: “The question to be asked is what a lot of people in town are asking. They have given this money in town which they expected to be spent on the flood victims.”
A statement released on behalf of Cllr Sanderson pointed out the evacuees had been found alternative accommodation by the Warden and Freemen and he had been able to obtain kitchen appliances and furniture as well as dehumidifiers.
He and the trustees - deputy clerk James Whittleton, town councillors Fran Vandelli and Charles Vernon, David Ashford and Julian Ponting from the Warden and Freemen, John Kerslake of the Freemasons and Peter Sheppard of Rotary - then met on December 20 to consider requests for assistance.
They decided the main purpose of the fund would be to help residents and groups who had suffered losses in the flood and were not covered by insurance.
"A small amount was spent to entertain the flood victims during the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit and during a debriefing session.
“The majority of the funds will be devoted to the provision of furniture and appliances when the families are able to move into permanent accommodation.” Anything left could be used for flood alleviation or future incidents.
The Environment Agency, Wiltshire Council and the National Flood Forum are hosting advice sessionsfor residents in the town hall on January 10 between 2pm and 7.30pm.