Flood-hit communities in Yorkshire have accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of throwing money around “like confetti” only after the event as he announced a series of measures designed to prevent a repeat of this month’s disaster.
Every home and business hit by flooding over recent weeks can now apply for a grant of up to £5,000 to help them better protect themselves in the future, while farmers are in line for up to £25,000 to help them cope.
However, even though extra funds were welcome for the 700 properties affected in South Yorkshire, Claire Holling, who owns the Old Butchers cafe, one of the hubs of the relief effort in Fishlake, near Doncaster, said the announcement was partially a case of being too little too late.
Ms Holling said now emergency services and politicians had mostly left the village, the atmosphere was quite “subdued”.
And while she said extra money for suring up properties against future flooding was a good idea, she said: “It’s like confetti with the money now, why were they not doing that before?”
For Pam Webb, owner of Truffle Lodge luxury spa in Fishlake, the money is not enough.
Mrs Webb lost her home and business in just 20 minutes after devastating floods, and yesterday she said: “Any financial assistance is better than none, but it certainly isn’t enough.”
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the Prime Minister said: “There is something uniquely traumatic about being forced from your home by floods. You endure the shock of seeing your property engulfed by water. Then you leave your life behind and you know that nothing will return to normal without a long and costly clean-up.
“Across England 1,000 properties have been flooded, the vast majority of which – 70 per cent - are in Yorkshire.
“When I visited Fishlake, waterlogged fields and flooded homes lay all around. St Cuthbert’s church was filled with donated food, clothes and bottled water.
“Nearby in Stainforth community centre, people who had evacuated their inundated homes were being given shelter. But the road to Fishlake was impassable by anything except four-wheel-drive vehicles. People told me that months may pass before their homes are fully habitable again.”
And he said the grant scheme, which would be up and running by the end of the month, would help people install things such as flood doors or raised electrical systems.
He said: “Steps of this kind will reduce any damage that could be caused by future floods and accelerate any clean-ups, enabling people to return to their homes more quickly.”
However a Labour Party spokesperson said: “Boris Johnson had to be dragged to Yorkshire by Jeremy Corbyn to see the national emergency unfolding in Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. The Prime Minister’s response then and his response now is the same - too little too late.
“Labour will end this neglect of the North. We will set up a £5.6bn fund to level up flood defences over 10 years – ending the situation we now have where Environment Agency spending in Yorkshire is cut by 14 per cent while areas of the south have seen a 14 per cent increase.”
Mr Johnson previously said he did not recognise these figures.
The Labour spokesperson added: “We will properly fund those on the frontline of flooding - the Environment Agency, fire and rescue services and local councils.”
As well as the newly-announced scheme, Mr Johnson said local authorities were able to reclaim their costs incurred due to the flooding, and farmers could apply for grants of up to £25,000.
It comes after Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, writing in The Yorkshire Post yesterday, said to victims: “We are on your side and determined to do whatever is needed to help people affected and ensure that the region is as best defended against future flooding as possible.”
But Labour’s candidate for Barnsley Central and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “The Environment Secretary’s belated response to flooding in South Yorkshire serves as another reminder of the government’s delayed reaction to the devastation our communities have suffered.
“For my part, I’m determined to make sure – as the media’s focus slowly shifts elsewhere – that our region has the investment, infrastructure and resilience we need to deal with future flooding incidents.”
He said he had called for an emergency summit to be held in the next two weeks, plus a review of flood defences needed on the River Don by the Environment agency.