JEREMY Corbyn met angry flood-hit York residents who felt “abandoned” by the authorities as well as Leeds business owners who are coming to terms with the huge financial cost of the Boxing Day storms.
And at the end of his visit to the region he declared that Yorkshire was facing the consequences of cuts to environment budgets, which had left it “vulnerable” to the devastating affects of dramatic weather events.
He said the Government has to examine how its cuts regime had contributed to the impact of the flooding seen across the region since Boxing Day and that real progress lies in reducing carbon emissions and moving to a clean energy future.
Mr Corbyn told The Yorkshire Post: “The scale of cuts to environment budgets has left Yorkshire vulnerable to dramatic weather events. Leeds has particularly felt the impact of those cuts. A project by the council to improve flood defence was cut by the government in 2011 and four years later we see the consequences.
“During my visit I have been overwhelmed by the response of the communities helping those affected by the floods. On Navigation Road in York I met volunteers from across Yorkshire up to their arms in muck helping people; people they hardly knew. In Leeds I met young and dedicated volunteers and I’m tempted to say that if the government showed as much community spirit as the volunteers I met then Yorkshire would not be facing the problems it is facing today.
“I really hope the government takes a step back and looks at what their cuts regime is doing.”
On his tour yesterday, the Labour leader was praised by locals for visiting a York council estate, rather than the “posh” streets where they said the Prime Minister had gone on Monday.
Amid the clean up in Rosemary Place, Mr Corbyn was followed by a large entourage of photographers and reporters.
Lee Moran shouted over the road at the gathering, frustrated by what he felt was a poor response by the city council and police to the floods.
The homeless 44-year-old said he had to organise the flood response locally, helping people who were stranded above the flood waters. But when he was introduced to Mr Corbyn he apologised for getting cross.
The Labour leader replied: “You have every right to be angry.”
Mr Moran said: “You are the first person to come up here. Mr Cameron has been, he went to all the posh estates, he didn’t come to see the council estates.”
Mr Corbyn met Environment Agency staff at the Foss Barrier, which was knocked out by flooding, and praised Agency workers for their “superhuman” efforts to try to protect cities.
Asked what Labour would do to help, he said they will pressurise the Government to “fully fund the Environment Agency, not cut its budget” and pay for flood defences where necessary.
The Labour leader offered encouragement to flood-hit businesses along Kirkstall Road, Leeds, where the clean up operation continued, visiting Azram’s Restaurant where owner Azram Chaudhry said he faced an initial estimate for the damage of £500,000.
He told Mr Corbyn: “My biggest concern now is that we don’t think the insurance will cover the loss. I have lost everything.”
Corbyn also called into the flood-hit AQAQ clothing warehouse and The Climbing Lab.
A temporary nerve centre for co-ordinating voluntary help has sprung up at another affected operation, at the Ladybird Project on Aire Place which only opened as an arts space on December 21.
Phil Marken, 29, who runs the project and is working with hundreds of fellow volunteers, said: “We are doing everything we can, from sweeping water out to mopping, disinfecting and doing rubbish runs.”