Volunteers have been the Level best

The remarkable efforts of volunteers on the flood-hit Somerset Levels and Moors are being recognised this week.

Somerset County Council’s Leader, Chairman and Chief Executive have sent a letter thanking all those who have been volunteering as part of the Somerset Emergency Volunteers (SEV) group.

Earlier this week Chairman David Fothergill hosted an award presentation for all the organisations from the Somerset Emergency Volunteer Agencies Group (SEVAG). SEVAG is made up of 20 different agencies including the Red Cross and Wessex 4X4 Response and won the Emergency Planning Society Voluntary Sector Award 2014 for their work through the floods.

SEV was set up nine months ago, funded by the County Council, to coordinate the efforts of the volunteers helping in some of the flood-affected areas after the initial emergency.

With the emergency over and the immediate recovery work essentially complete, the contract with SEV comes to an end at the end of this week. The focus is now firmly on helping local communities become more resilient to any future flooding.

Leader of the Council, John Osman, said: “Many people gave up their time to help out during last winter’s floods. It was a remarkable response from people from many difference places and walks of life. Their help was extremely important when we were coping with the emergency and then in the work to get communities back onto their feet.

“Lots of work is being done by lots of different organisations to reduce the likelihood and duration of flooding. A key part of that is now helping at risk communities be better prepared for any flooding that does happen.”

As part of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan work, Community Resilience Groups have already been created in six villages on Levels and Moors. These help residents prepare for floods and other emergencies and can include help to access grants for equipment and training.

The Old School Building in Burrowbridge, which is being leased by the County Council, will continue to have a regular local authority presence to support resilience building. The Council is also continuing to fund advice for businesses and farmers and is ready to fund public meetings if needed.

SEV was formed by Paula Blight, Chief Executive of Mendip Community Support, and Sam Best, Chief Executive of South Somerset Association for Voluntary and Community Action.

They said: “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to work with the volunteers as part of the flood recovery on the Somerset Levels. This project enabled us all to work together and show the voluntary sector at its best.”