Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers was facing mounting criticism tonight over her response to flood-hit communities after it emerged that she had still not responded to calls for an ‘‘emergency summit’’ three months on from last year’s South Yorkshire floods.
As Ms Villiers was grilled by residents in Calder Valley in the aftermath of the devastating Storm Ciara, Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis said he was “increasingly frustrated” by the lack of engagement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Mr Jarvis described the follow-up action by Defra in South Yorkshire, where some of the worst flooding in the county’s history left entire villages underwater and affected hundreds of homes last November, as “painfully slow”.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Mr Jarvis said the Prime Minister had expressed support in a phone call for a flooding summit which would see agencies come together to put plans in place in order to prevent further incidents.
But he said Ms Villiers, who is tipped to be replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle announced tomorrow, had not responded to his request and so no progress had been made.
Mr Jarvis said in a statement: “As climate change is set to get worse and more flooding events are predicted, it is vital that Defra engages with local leaders and our communities to help stop these life changing events.”
He wrote to the PM: “Ensuring that the people and businesses of South Yorkshire are not again subject to the same devastating floods experienced in November, is a priority that I believe we both share.
“It is only through collaboration that we can achieve this objective and I would welcome yoursupport in making this a reality.”
Tory Minister Ms Villiers was quizzed in the Commons this week over whether a date had been set for “the much-trailed flood summit that the Prime Minister promised last year”.
She today visited Mytholmroyd in Calder Valley, one of the places worst affected by Storm Ciara, where she was grilled by residents and businesses demanding to know why the village’s £35m flood defences were not completed in time.
Work started in 2017 – nearly two years after parts of the region were devastated by the 2015 Boxing Day floods –- but they are not due to be completed until the summer.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “We are committed to tackling the ongoing threats we face from the risks of flood and coastal erosion.
“That is why across the country we are investing £2.6bn between 2015 and 2021 to reduce the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, groundwater and surface water and from coastal erosion for at least 300,000 homes.
“We have already built 59 new flood defences in Yorkshire since 2015, which better protect 13,200 homes and will continue to invest nationally as well as work with local leaders and communities to reduce the risks of flooding and coastal erosion to as many people as possible.”