Anger grows over floods support

Craig Whittaker MP
Craig Whittaker MP
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Ministers are facing mounting anger over the markedly difference responses from Government to the recent flooding which struck the south of England and previous deluges in Yorkshire.

Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, railed against the Government for offering a series of grants to those people hit by severe flooding over recent months – but not to householders in his own constituency who were flooded in 2012.

His intervention follows complaints from Hull North MP Diana Johnson, a Labour frontbencher, of a ‘North/South divide’ in Ministerial action on flooding.

David Cameron announced last month that the Government would be offering a series of emergency support packages to people who have been flooded since December 2013, including £5,000 grants to make homes better defended against future deluges, as well as further support for affected businesses and farms.

But Mr Whittaker, normally a Tory loyalist, said people in West Yorkshire would be “disappointed” they too will not benefit from the measures.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions – where Nick Clegg was standing in for the absent David Cameron – Mr Whittaker said: “During the recent floods, the Prime Minister rightly announced grants of £5,000 for people in the homes flooded to put in flood defence measures.

“The Deputy Prime Minister can therefore imagine the disappointment of people from the 1,000 homes in Calder Valley who were flooded only 18 months previously, but got no such support.

“Will he agree to look at this policy with the Prime Minister, to see whether the same grants can be made available to those people in Calder Valley who were flooded as well?”

Labour politicians from the region have been making similar complaints for several weeks. But the fact Northern Tories are also becoming disgruntled at the apparent disparity means Mr Cameron will be forced to take it seriously.

Calder Valley is a key political battleground for the Conservatives, with Mr Whittaker holding a slim majority of just 6,400.

Mr Clegg, whose own constituency of Sheffield Hallam was badly hit in the disastrous floods of 2007, said he would discuss the possibility of retrospective action with his Ministerial colleagues.

“Of course I will,” he said. “As someone who witnessed the terrible flooding in my own constituency some years ago, I know that flooding can hit different parts of the country in different ways.

“As we adapt to this new, very difficult reality, we must make sure that we build up resilience in all parts of the country, and provide assistance as fully and consistently as we can across the country.”

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said later that the Deputy Prime Minister would discuss the matter with Dan Rogerson, the Lib Dem Floods Minister, and other key figures within Government.

“It’s something he will look at,” Mr Clegg’s office said. “He will take that away and talk to the Floods Minister and other colleagues.”

But a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) insisted the recent floods were “exceptional” in their gravity and that special measures had therefore been required.

“We have experienced a period of unprecedented bad weather, including the wettest January on record,” Defra said.

“The extra funding we have announced recognises the exceptional nature of these circumstances.”