Cameron Pledges Flood Tax Relief as Rail Repairs Delayed

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a tax break for people forced out of their homes by flooding, while a monthlong delay was announced in restoring a main rail route damaged by the recent severe weather.

The government will set aside 4 million pounds ($6.7 million) to allow an exemption from local levies on property, known as council tax, for residents who’ve had to move out because of the flooding that’s covered much of southern England, Cameron’s office said today.

“I can confirm we will fund councils that give council-tax rebates to people whose homes have been flooded,” the premier said on Twitter.

Hundreds of homes in commuter-belt towns along the River Thames west of London have been under water, while swathes of Somerset in southwest England have been submerged since before Christmas in the wettest winter for parts of England since records began in 1776. More than 1,700 properties have been flooded in the latest incidents since Jan. 29, according to the Environment Agency.

Rail-infrastructure operator Network Rail Ltd. said the line along the sea wall at Dawlish in Devon in the southwest, carrying trains to Plymouth and Cornwall, would not now be repaired until mid-April, instead of next month. Storms washed away the line at the start of this month, and repair work has been delayed by further bad weather.

“Significant additional damage on the evening of Feb. 14 has meant that the hole in the sea wall is 30 percent larger,” Network Rail said in an e-mailed statement.

Today’s announcements follow a meeting between leading insurers and ministers yesterday, in which the companies said they’re prepared to act quickly to aid victims of the floods, which have caused damage estimated at 600 million pounds by Ernst & Young.

“River levels are expected to fall slowly but remain high this week, especially along the Thames and Severn,” the Environment Agency, which handles flood protection,’’ said on its website. “We are urging people to remain vigilant.”

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