THE Prime Minister this week backed The Gazette's initiative to give South Lakeland's flood heroes the recognition they deserve.

Mr Cameron said community-spirited residents in South Lakeland 'stood up to be counted' when the floods struck and 'acts of incredible kindness and generosity' shone through.

The Premier's support came shortly before the government announced it will match 'pound for pound' the funds raised by charities and community groups in flood-stricken areas.

The Government has set aside £8.4 million to help the thousands of families and businesses affected by Storms Desmond and Eva 'get back on their feet'.

Last week, the Gazette launched its Flood Heroes Initiative to honour the people who went the extra mile to help and support those whose lives were badly disrupted by December's devastating floods. The first group of heroes is revealed on page nine of this week's Gazette.

Mr Cameron said: "When the devastating floods struck in recent months South Lakelanders stood up to be counted.

“I want to say an enormous thank you to everyone who came together to help their neighbours and local businesses during these difficult times.

“So many helped people in their hour of need with acts of incredible kindness and generosity.

"It is good to be able to say thank you to people like Eddie Lord from Sedbergh whose building company helped repair flood damage, the Rev Jean Radley who welcomed people into her church with a community hub where they could eat and stay warm.

"Also, Carl Scrivens, who helped clear debris from the rivers and town of Glenridding. These great examples of community spirit should make us all proud.”

His sentiments were echoed by Rory Stewart, Floods Minister and MP for Penrith and the Borders, who said: "I think the Flood Heroes Initiative is a really worthwhile idea and a very fitting tribute to the amazing spirit of Cumbria."

The Prime Minister hosted an event at 10 Downing Street on Monday called the Points of Light Awards, which Gazette reporter Patrick Christys attended.

It was designed to recognise the efforts of some community figures who went above and beyond the call of duty at the time of the floods, and who continue to do so today.

Kendal's Jonny Gios, Nazarene minister working for the Methodist Church on Sandylands, attended the ceremony, as did Rachel Ellis of the Kendal Food Bank and Patterdale Mountain Rescue's Mike Blakey.

Three members of the Flookburgh-based Bay Search and Rescue - founder and station officer Gary Parson, Paul Calland and Steven Fell - were also personally thanked by the Prime Minister for working long and hard in dangerous conditions to save lives.

Mr Calland was on bronze command in Kendal during Storm Desmond and also helped on the front line and Mr Fell's good seamanship allowed him to lead an expedition to restore fresh water to thousands of homes in Patterdale.

He was asked to take United Utilities engineers into the flooded area around Ullswater to repair the fresh water pumping station through woods in the pitch-black, dark night, under dangerous conditions.

Speaking inside Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: "I've had a lot of great parties in 10 Downing Street but I can't think of people who deserve to be here more than yourselves.

"There are people here whose communities were flooded four, five, maybe six times and it's great to have you here.

"We must always go on learning lessons from these terrible events.

"We've had too many floods over the last decade but this time we did deploy the army more quickly, the Environment Agency and local authorities worked together better than before, as did MPs, police and the fire services.

"Money is going out faster to the businesses and home owners but it could always go out even faster.

"We've changed the whole national approach.

"In Cumbria, where water was just flowing off the fells, we have to find different things to do there.

"One magnificent thing that comes out of all this is the strength and resilience of our communities.

"It was a marvel to see - you really are the best of British and you did a bloody good job."

At the same event, Mr Stewart echoed the Prime Minister's sentiments, saying: "What we have in Cumbria is a huge range of stories.

"Jonny Gios' is a story about fantastic knowledge and work within a community.

"Robert Butler from Beckside Hydro in Glenridding is another - he went out at 3am and started digging rubble out of the river.

"It's really amazing because when a weather event as extreme as this happens, the relief efforts wouldn't work without people like this."

Mr Gios told The Gazette that it felt 'surreal but very affirming' to be recognised by the Prime Minister for the work he has done in the Kendal community.

He said: "You don't do it to be invited to events like this, you do it because the people of Kendal need you and you need to get your hands dirty and get involved."

Meanwhile, Mr Stewart MP, Minister for Floods, visited Gooseholme, Kendal, this week to announce that the government will be giving £58m to Cumbria to help protect town's from future flooding episodes.

Mr Stewart said the announcement means the Environment Agency, in conjunction with South Lakeland District Council, will be able to enact their plans to strengthen Kendal's resilience and protection against floods.

The EA is currently preparing a report on December's floods in Kendal and will be recommending resilience and defence improvements 'by early summer', according to Craig Cowperthwaite, a senior advisor in flood risk management at the EA.