Government on a go-slow on flooding

Over the last few days I’ve been out visiting properties affected by flooding.

I’ve talked to residents in Wath and Kilnhurst and businesses in Parkgate.

I’m dealing with a number of problems people have raised with me and am in close contact with the senior director at Rotherham Council who is co-ordinating the response.

I have offered my support to the headteacher at Kilnhurst Primary School and checking the plans in place to make sure children can continue learning while the school is closed.

After visiting businesses in Parkgate on Sunday, I reported back to Rotherham Council and urged immediate help.

As floods recovery minister for the Labour government in 2007, when our area was so badly affected, I helped set up help for businesses through the Regional Development Agency, Yorkshire Forward, since abolished by the Conservatives:

  • a £2m fund for small businesses, with up to £2,500 per business
  • a £3m fund for larger businesses, with up to £100,000 per business

The funds were available for repair or replacement of damaged property including equipment and furniture, as well as debris removal and other clean-up costs.

Labour also announced a £14 million package of immediate support for households and individuals in the areas worst hit by flooding.

The government must now act to help people and businesses get back on their feet, just like Labour did.

The Conservatives have been on a go-slow since flooding hit our area. So far, they have refused to offer practical support.

At the weekend, the Conservative Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that the floods were “not looking like something we need to escalate to the level of a national emergency”.

It’s hard to imagine him saying the same if this had happened in London.

However, following a letter by Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the PM finally announced a meeting of the Government's emergency committee, Cobra.

Since 2010, Tory cuts have pushed our emergency services to breaking point.

  • National spending on flood defences is down 10 per cent compared with 2015. The government’s planned spending on flood defences until 2021 heavily favours London and the south-east of England.
  • Since the Tories came to power, fire and rescue services across the country have been cut by over £300 million in real terms, shedding 23 per cent of their frontline staff. In South Yorkshire, firefighters have been cut by 25 per cent.
  • The Environment Agency, which prepares emergency flooding plans and responds when flooding occurs, has lost 20 per cent of its staff. The agency’s ability to respond to flooding incidents has been compromised by insufficient funding, with most incident response roles now filled on a voluntary basis by staff working overtime. Another crucial role performed by the Environment Agency is rover management, which is estimated to prevent over £1bn each year in flood damage.

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