Flooding should also be integral to the new portfolio. This much is clear as the Government – and other agencies – struggle to respond effectively to coastal erosion, rising sea levels and the increased prevalence of inland flooding as a result of more extreme weather in a changing climate.
As demonstrated by the slow response to the Yorkshire Dales floods six months ago, and then, more recently, scandalous delays to Ministers assisting homeowners and businesses when the Don Valley was flooded, there is now less confidence in the allocation of resources than there was in 2015 when parts of West and North Yorkshire were badly hit.
Back then David Cameron dipped his boots into the river Ouse in York and promised that ‘money would be no object’ – a promise that he also made when he visited the flood-hit Calder Valley on a separate occasion. Yet the then Prime Minister could not have been more disingenuous.
From investment in the North’s flood defences – Leeds is still owed £25m that the Government promised to complete its alleviation scheme – to affordable insurance, or Ministers being persuaded to match the money raised locally to assist victims, money is a problem.
But it is only part of the solution. What is needed is a co-ordinated strategy for every river catchment area – it is short-sighted looking at specific schemes in isolation as this only increases the risk of flooding downstream.
Given Yorkshire’s rural economy is worth £17bn a year – a sum greater than the GDP of many cities – that is even more reason why the political focus being belatedly applied to the North needs to account for the countryside and coastal communities, too.