Overall command of the response to the flooding crisis in Somerset has formally passed from the police to a joint operation led by Somerset County Council.
The joint agreement, which was signed on Friday, sees six key points confirmed and moves the floods crisis from an emergency phase – known as “Response” – to a new level, “Recovery”.
One of the key points is the acceptance that 85 days after the first winter storm struck Somerset, and with flood waters drastically reduced, there is no longer a known risk to life.
A joint statement issued on behalf of Gold Command said: “There has been a huge effort from emergency services and close working with all agencies and partners to provide the best help and support to the public that we could throughout this crisis.
“We all also publicly acknowledge the tremendous support and dedication shown by a variety of voluntary groups and the many hundreds of volunteers who have stepped forward during this time.
“It is hugely appreciated by Gold Command and even more so from those people who have faced such unprecedented flooding.”
Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “This is a big step forward for all our flood-hit communities, it is a clear indication that we are moving now to help people piece their lives and futures together again, rather than just working to keep them safe. Our thanks to everyone who has worked so hard for us all over the past weeks.”
As the transfer is made from Response through to Recovery, all agencies concerned acknowledge that there are still challenges both for the agencies themselves and for the communities they serve. This will in some cases require significant extra work and in some cases extra investment.
There is also a commitment to continue to engage with communities, to host the regular Wednesday evening public meeting at the Canalside Centre near Bridgwater; to provide roadshows into all flood-hit areas; to continue to provide bases in Burrowbridge and Moorland for residents to raise issues and request help and to improve communications from all agencies to the public.
A single point of contact for residents and businesses has been set up to be operated seven days a week on the phone number 0845 345 9166.