Government won’t “ignore the risks” on Chasewater dam

Chasewater. Pic: <a title="View profile" href=

Chasewater. Pic: Bruce Kain and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Gordon Brown has promised that the Government will not “ignore the risks” when it comes to repairs to Chasewater’s dam.

The Prime Minister’s response came in a written reply to concerns raised by Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant over the safety of the dam.

In his letter, Mr Brown said:

“While the management of the Dam as a public asset now involves considerable engineering works to ensure its safety in the future, the Government and other relevant agencies will not stand by nor ignore the risks that the current situation holds.

“Of course we would not want to determine future management and resourcing of dams in local authority ownership on the basis of this single and particular case, nor should central government unnecessarily interfere in the responsibilities of local government. In practice the local authority is free, under the prudential system, to borrow for any capital expenditure without Government consent, provided that they are satisfied that they can afford to meet the borrowing costs.

“We would expect the proposed improvement works to Chasewater Dam to be classified as capital expenditure, and Lichfield Council are free to borrow to fund these works. “

But the Prime Minister has been accused of dodging the question by Mr Fabricant.

The Lichfield MP said:

“The Prime Minister ignored the central question, namely, if he would lend his support to the sharing of costs of the repairs amongst those councils – and bodies like British Waterways – which would be affected if the dam bursts.

“Instead, he merely suggests that Lichfield District Council can borrow the money which would have to be repaid, with interest, by local council tax payers over many years to come.  It puts a huge and unfair burden on Lichfield and I know that the Council will be disappointed with this response.”

Gordon Brown’s full letter to Michael Fabricant:

Dear Michael,

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 20 January I said that I would look into the issue you raised with me about the financing of remedial works to the Chasewater Dam. Thank you also for your letter of 26 January about this matter.

I am aware of the responsibilities of the District Council for the Dam, the role of the reservoir in supplying the canal network and the relative risks identified in the engineers’ work. I understand that the engineers have recommended remedial works for the reservoir and that levels have been reduced to allow this work to begin.

While the management of the Dam as a public asset now involves considerable engineering works to ensure its safety in the future, the Government and other relevant agencies will not stand by nor ignore the risks that the current situation holds.

Of course we would not want to determine future management and resourcing of dams in local authority ownership on the basis of this single and particular case, nor should central government unnecessarily interfere in the responsibilities of local government.

In practice the local authority is free, under the prudential system, to borrow for any capital expenditure without Government consent, provided that they are satisfied that they can afford to meet the borrowing costs. We would expect the proposed improvement works to Chasewater Dam to be classified as capital expenditure, and Lichfield Council are free to borrow to fund these works.

I understand that Lichfield District Council have convened a meeting of regional bodies on 12 February to seek assistance with the funding of these works. That meeting will be an important opportunity for all partners to consider what to do about the issues that you and others have raised. Officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will contribute through their representation in the Government Office in the West Midlands.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon

Advertisements
Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.