Jeremy Corbyn today visited parts of South Yorkshire devastated by heavy rainfall, vowing to make flood prevention a key priority of an incoming Labour Government.
The leader of the opposition first visited the Dufton Close estate in Conisborough near Doncaster, where houses had been inundated with water just 24 hours previously.
He then went to Doncaster to speak to some of the firefighters who had helped in the rescue operation, and urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to declare the floods a national emergency so immediate financial help could be provided to families in need.
He said: “If an emergency is declared - and it obviously is an emergency - then the Bellwin formula funding kicks in straight away.
“That means there can be special help for people through the Department of Work and Pensions but also that local government gets the help its needs to deal with the consequences.
“Emergency housing has to be provided, in some cases also education help, and people are not going to be able to get back into their homes for months on end.
“If they are not insured how are they going to be able to afford to pay for hotels or rent somewhere else if they are also paying the cost of their own property.”
As well as calling for the immediate release of emergency funds to help those affected by the floods, Mr Corbyn also called for more money to be spent on flood prevention and climate change.
He said: “The consequences of not doing flood prevention are enormous. There is the social cost of people’s lives disrupted but there is also the loss of businesses, jobs and work that goes with it.
“Obviously there was an unusually heavy rainstorm but they are happening more frequently. The climate change affect is massive and we have to be prepared to invest to protect but also to do everything we can to reduce emissions and global warming.”
The fire officers Mr Corbyn spoke to in Doncaster said the numbers of firefighters in the county had dropped from 1,200 to less than 600 in under 30 years.
They also said that at the fire station he visited, only two of the three fire appliances could be used at any one time, as they didn’t currently have the staff to run all three at once.
“Firefighters are absolutely brilliant people but they have lost 20 per cent of their workforce as has the Environment Agency,” said Mr Corbyn.
“When you cut public services back like this we all pay a price.”
Before visiting Leicester Avenue Fire Station in Doncaster, Mr Corbyn had toured Duftons Close estate in Conisbrough, which is just metres from the River Don.
Residents on the estate said the floods were if anything worse than in 2007, when thousands of homes and businesses were flooded across South Yorkshire.
They were in the middle of a clean-up operation when Mr Corbyn arrived but still took time to show the Labour leader around their homes.
He said they had spoken of the fear of watching the flood water rise, and then their devastation at seeing the state of their homes afterwards.
He said: “There are the fridges and ovens that are wrecked but it is the personal things like wedding photos as well. That might not seem like the biggest thing but it is. And then there is also the inability to insure their homes after the flood.
“I just feel terribly sorry for people’s loss and also the emotional stress of it. These people’s homes are clearly not going to be habitable for a very long time and that was a story repeated in house after house.”