THE issue of whether councils should charge residents for sandbags prompted an intervention from Downing Street yesterday.
Fearful of another flood, like the one that forced residents to evacuate on Christmas morning, people living in Conifer Close, Christchurch, have been asking Christchurch council for sandbags.
But they were told if they wanted them they would have to pay for them, as it was not council policy to issue sandbags for free.
A Number 10 spokesman said Downing Street had told local councils not to charge for sandbags and confirmed the cost could be recovered from central government funding.
And this prompted the Local Government Association to say that reports councils were charging for sandbags were not true.
But a spokesperson for Christ-church council said: “If the Environment Agency put out a red warning and we know there’s likely to be flooding we will provide them free of charge.
“At the moment, people are concerned and are asking for sandbags just in case. In that situation, we will charge for them because we don’t have the resources to give them for free.”
UKIP’s Dorset spokesman Gawain Towler said they were hoping to have a whip-round for Conifer Close residents to help reimburse them for the £750 they have spent on sandbags.
He said: “The council are very happy to take residents’ council tax and local business rates, but when it comes to emergency people are left to their own devices.
“This shows how unfeeling, thoughtless and parsimonious the council is.” Resident Paul Richards said: “I found it difficult to believe Christchurch council wanted to charge us for sandbags.
“Then I was shocked and then angry. So far one of the residents here has spent £150 on sandbags and our management company has spent £750 and yet we’ve nowhere near enough.
“We feel we have been deserted, like we are being totally ignored.”
Bournemouth council confirmed their policy was to lay sandbags for free at sites expected to flood. Other requests for sandbags would be assessed on a needs basis and, if successful, six free sandbags would be provided.
In Poole, the council does not provide sandbags but directs residents to DIY stores.
NO LET UP IN THE WEATHER
MORE weather misery is set to sweep across Dorset today and tomorrow with amber wind and rain warnings issued across the county.
After more storms earlier this week, the Met Office has issued an amber and yellow rain warning for both days.
The amber rain warning lasts from 6am until 2pm today covering Dorset with a yellow rain warning for Bournemouth and Poole in place from 4am on today until 6am tomorrow.
The amber wind warning is from 6pm today until 10am tomorrow.
Gusts of 70mph are possible even inland with 80mph possible along most exposed parts of the south coast.
Residents were yesterday urged to avoid steps leading from Alum Chine to West Overcliff Drive due to a fallen tree – with the Avon Causeway also closed due to flooding.