THERE should be no doubt in the minds of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet at the depth of anger and resentment amongst the people of Yorkshire at the inadequacy and unfairness of the Government’s measures to prevent the catastrophic flooding.
York, Leeds and the Calder Valley have been let down by a shameful lack of planning and a cynical denial of resources for flood protection. Political expediency has been put before the safety and welfare of Yorkshire communities now coping with the heartbreaking consequences.
Where the Government’s approach to flood protection should have been proactive, it has been reactive; where foresight and strategic thinking were cried out for, it has offered only knee-jerk attempts to mop up damage and assuage public anger.
This deeply flawed approach was underlined by the announcement by Communities Secretary Greg Clark that Yorkshire will receive £50m in recovery funding.
It is too little, too late. Four years ago, ministers refused Leeds £180m for a comprehensive scheme likely to have safeguarded many of the homes and businesses that have suffered so grievously in the past few days.
Yet a year ago, five months before the general election, £279m was found for flood protection in the Conservative heartlands of the Thames Valley where seats had to be held at all costs if there was to be any chance of the party winning power.
Despite denials, there could hardly be a more damning example of a North-South divide in the attitude towards areas requiring protection, nor a more breathtakingly blatant act of cynical politicking.
The additional £50m will, of course, be put to good use.
But Mr Clark and the Prime Minister should heed the entirely justified insistence of Leeds Council that there needs to be a comprehensive settlement to give the city and its economy the protection it requires.
Irrespective of electoral considerations, the North must not be treated like a foreign country by those who rarely venture beyond the Home Counties.
Our communities, whether large or small, deserve the same level of resources as those virtually within sight of Westminster.
The Prime Minister’s fleeting visit to York this week did little to address the public’s anger, or provide reassurance that the Government yet appreciates the scale of the task at hand in both clearing up and preventing any repetition.
Mr Cameron met few people, and devoted considerable effort to insisting that the Government was increasing spending on defences, a misjudgement when the city had suffered its worst flooding in more than 30 years.
It is time for the Government to heed calls to reconsider its levels of spending on foreign aid and if necessary divert resources to flood protection.
There is considerable absurdity in earmarking vast sums for flood protection abroad – some of which will doubtless end up lining the pockets of corrupt
despots – whilst allowing the people of Britain to suffer.
The first duty of any government is to protect this country’s citizens. That
means protecting them from natural disasters, as well as man-made threats such as terrorism.
And the Government should know that the people of Yorkshire will not be silenced in their demands for fair funding and proper defences, nor fobbed off with tokenism or warm words of sympathy.
Immediate action is required.
The Government must not fail Yorkshire again.