UK flooding: Government faces calls to overhaul flood defences in showdown talks with key groups
Flood defences “overwhelmed” by recent record rainfall will be fixed and bolstered in a £40m package of spending, the prime minister has said.
Thousands of homes across northern England were affected after Storm Eva hit on Boxing Day. The £40m package for Yorkshire comes on top of £50m funding to help local authorities’ response to the floods.
David Cameron yesterday announced a package of just £40million to improve flood defences in areas hit by the Boxing Day deluge.
But the Government’s latest addition to its disaster fund was blasted as just another drop in the ocean given the overall devastation wreaked on communities over the last few weeks.
The embattled PM said: “I have seen at first-hand the devastation caused by flooding. And that’s why this work to repair and improve flood defences is so vital.
“Now more than £40m will be spent to fix those defences overwhelmed.”
But Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Kerry McCarthy slammed the payment, saying: “A lump sum of £40million is a sticking plaster approach and it won’t go very far at all.
“Spending on flood defences rose under Labour, but there have been yearly cuts since 2010.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has accused David Cameron of providing only a “short-term fix” for the problem.
And the leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake, said the funding was a “first step” in tackling the issue.
Parts of northern England and north-east and central Scotland have been among the worst affected by flooding after several weeks of heavy rain, with hundreds of people forced to leave their homes over Christmas and thousands left without power.
It has also emerged that ministers were presented in November with a document from the Association of Drainage Authorities which said that since 2000, the UK had had its five wettest years on record, yet the Environment Agency’s overall spending on flood management fell by 14%.
Amber warnings for rain, meaning the public should “be prepared”, are in place for parts of eastern Scotland for Sunday and Monday, meaning outbreaks of heavy rain are expected.
The Met Office has also issued yellow “be aware” warnings for parts of Northern Ireland, south Wales and south-west England for the weekend.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, whose Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency has been badly hit, said the money earmarked for areas swamped by Storm Eva was too little too late.
He said “Time and time again, David Cameron offers warm words and a little bit of funding for a short-term fix.”
Mr Cameron claims £2.3bn will be spent over the next six years to protect 300,000 houses from flooding across the country.
But Ms McCarthy said: “The Government feigns interest while the media spotlight is on those communities. When the TV cameras have gone away and the water subsides, they lose interest.”
Meanwhile thousands of flood victims throughout the North and Scotland hit by Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank could be forced out of their wrecked homes and business premises for up to a year as they battle for insurance payouts.