FLOODING is something I would not wish on anyone. Having your home destroyed by a force you can do nothing to stop is one of the worst things that can happen – particularly just a month from Christmas.
I’ve seen it, in 2015 Storm Desmond wreaked havoc in my patch in Cumbria. The village of Glenridding was flooded twice in the space of a week – devasting a small community.
It is happening now across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire – people are being forced out of their homes. It’s a tragedy but Boris Johnson’s reaction has been abysmal.
The Prime Minister arrived at the scene on Wednesday but failed to acknowledge the national emergency that has happened and is still happening. Let me tell you, to the people who live those communities it feels like a national emergency.
That’s why our leader Jo Swinson visited these communities – to provide them with the leadership they deserve. Jo offered the listening ear they deserved, offered them the attention they deserved, she treated it like a national emergency.
But the Conservatives are doing more than failing to treat these floods with the gravity they deserve. They’re also failing to act on making sure it doesn’t keep happening. The climate emergency is the biggest issue affecting the world right now – we’re seeing more extreme weather events across the globe.
And yet this year the Government’s own advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, declared the Tories’ preparations as “a ramshackle system which is a real threat to the population”.
One in six properties in England are at risk of flooding, and two-thirds of people living in flood risk areas are “socially vulnerable”. Boris Johnson’s is abandoning them and that is simply is not good enough.
We need a government that will take the climate crisis seriously, not just offer warm words in the face of tragedy and the Tories can’t even do that.
The Liberal Democrats are that party, we are the only party with a radical credible plan to tackle the climate emergency – we will halve emissions by 2030 compared to today and to reach net-zero by 2045.
We must also limit the damage flooding causes across the UK. Liberal Democrats will spend an additional £5bn over the next parliament on flood prevention, this would be on top of the £800m a year the Conservatives currently spend.
This money will be used to support small community and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding, to improve flood defences and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in high flood risk areas.
We will also increase funding to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, by £1bn a year – increasing the Environment Agency’s budget and their capacity to deal with floods.
There is another organisation that has helped us deal with effects of flooding – that is the European Union.
When Cumbria flooded in 2015 the EU gave us money for flood relief from their Solidarity Fund – but not before the Tories had to be shamed into applying, making the claim just three days before the deadline.
And yet they still didn’t use the money effectively, £15m of that money was used to pay a fine the Labour Party incurred for misusing the funds in 2007 – when we received £140m for flood relief from the same fund.
Since 2014, a total of 20 projects related to flooding received £41m from the EU’s Structural and Investment Fund. That covered nearly half the money they needed.
Brexit will cut off vital funds that we have been able to use to deal with flooding across the UK.
The lack of warm words from the Prime Minister is one thing, the failure to properly deal with the effects of flooding is another.
Flooding is a tragedy for those involved – imagine having to spend Christmas in a flood- damaged house or worse not being able to go home at all, that is what people across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire are facing.
It is devasting from these communities.
We need a Prime Minster who cares, who wants to tackle the climate emergency and who wants to stop Brexit and to build a brighter future – that’s Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats.
Tim Farron is a former leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is seeking re-election in Westmorland and Lonsdale.