DON’T be surprised if today’s official launch of the Calderdale Flood Action Plan is greeted with these four blunt words ‘Better later than never’.
After all, it is more than four years since David Cameron – the then Prime Minister – visited flooding victims in Todmorden and told them: “The Government stands by to help in any way we can.”
Really? It was only after last winter’s flooding destruction, the second disaster to hit the area in a little over three years, that political pressure grew for a robust plan to protect this part of West Yorkshire. And while this £55m strategy is welcome – £35m additional funding has been made available this year – there needs to be a clear timetable for the implementation of the proposed schemes and reassurances that longer-term flood prevention measures will also be put into effect.
So far, Theresa May’s government has been more amenable than David Cameron’s administration which was slow to respond to last December’s disaster, spent a disproportionate amount of money on schemes in the South and was still stonewalling questions from exasperated Yorkshire MPs as recently as early July. Yet it needs to recognise that many of the proposed projects will not be completed in time for this winter – hence the need for the Environment Agency to be primed to offer temporary measures – and that flood defences need to be considered from the perspective of entire river catchment areas rather than individual communities. Preventative measures in one town could leave downstream communities at greater risk.
And then there’s the issue of affordable insurance. Again Mr Cameron could not have been clearer in June 2012 when he told Calderdale residents: “Longer term, we need another deal with the insurance companies so they do what it says on the tin – insurance, they provide people with cover against flooding.” However the then Prime Minister did not put his words into action. And, while Chancellor Philip Hammond and Environment Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey have promised to look again at this issue, many flooding victims still can’t afford to insure their properties because of sky-high premiums. For this reason, today’s launch represents just a start.
Double whammy: Brexit boost for Theresa May
THERESA May will draw quiet satisfaction from the latest GDP figures. Britain’s economy grew – albeit by just 0.5 per cent – in the first trading quarter since Brexit and car giant Nissan listened to the Prime Minister’s overtures by confirming that it will build the next-generation Qashqai at its iconic Sunderland plant, where production of the new X-Trail model will also take place in another unexpected boost.
Yet, while Leave campaigners contend that this ‘double whammy’ makes a mockery of the economic Armageddon predicted by David Cameron, George Osborne and others if Britain dared to leave the European Union, growth is still tentative and provides Chancellor Philip Hammond with little room for manoeuvre ahead of next month’s critical Autumn Statement where he has to balance the case for infrastructure investment against the need to lower Britain’s budget deficit.
However, while the Nissan deal and this week’s long-awaited decision on Heathrow Airport’s expansion vindicates Mrs May’s approach thus far, it will take many more announcements on this scale to signal to the UK, Europe and the rest of the world that Britain is open for business, and that Brexit does mean Brexit.
In the line of duty
IT is significant that younger war veterans should be playing such an active role in this year’s Poppy Appeal; humbling because time is now catching up on those who fought in the Second World War, it is also poignant because of the sacrifices made by brave members of the Armed Forces in more recent conflicts.
Yet it is imperative that the Royal British Legion’s appeal remembers all veterans – past and present – who have been either killed, or injured, in the line of duty. With no survivors left to recount the trench warfare that was waged a century ago on the Somme, it’s more important than ever that today’s generation finds time to pay its respects to its forebears.
The simple act of wearing a red poppy, and observing a respectful two minutes silence once a year, is a small price to pay for the freedom and liberty which Britain enjoys today as one of the world’s shining beacons of democracy. This must never be taken for granted.