Labour and Liberal Democrats use visits to flooded South Yorkshire to pledge billions for extra defences

0
Have your say

Opposition leaders today the Government's response to the severe flooding hitting parts of Yorkshire as "woeful" as they pledged to pump billions of pounds into improving local defences.

Severe flooding hit several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands last week, with parts around the River Don near Doncaster worst affected after the river burst its banks.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) with former Labour leader Ed Milliband (right) are shown the water level in Bentley, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, during General Election campaigning. Pic: PA

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) with former Labour leader Ed Milliband (right) are shown the water level in Bentley, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, during General Election campaigning. Pic: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the government's response as "woeful" while Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said it was not taking it as seriously enough.

Mr Corbyn said if the flooding had happened in Surrey in the South East, it "would have been a very different story".

Read more: Awkward moment dog kills a rabbit on camera during BBC interview about Yorkshire floods

Read more: Devastated Yorkshire flood victim who suffered tens of thousands of pounds of damage discovered she is not covered by insurance

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson speaks to volunteer Rosie Squires in the Stainforth 4 All charity shop during a visit to Stainforth in South Yorkshire to meet people affected by flooding. Pic: PA

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson speaks to volunteer Rosie Squires in the Stainforth 4 All charity shop during a visit to Stainforth in South Yorkshire to meet people affected by flooding. Pic: PA

He said Mr Johnson had only called a Cobra meeting today after he had written to the Prime Minister demanding one.

Speaking at a rally in Blackpool, Mr Corbyn added: "More than a thousand homes have been evacuated and one woman, Annie Hall, has lost her life. Our hearts go out to her family and friends. The Conservative government's response to the floods has been woeful.

"If this had happened in Surrey instead of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, I think it would have been a very different story.

"When terrible floods struck the South in 2014, David Cameron rightly said: 'Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed, we will spend it'.

"This time, Boris Johnson waited five days before calling a Cobra meeting - and only after I wrote to him demanding it.

"We now need a guarantee from the Government that the Bellwin money is made immediately available to local government."

The government's emergency Bellwin scheme reimburses councils for costs they incur during a response to flooding, for items such as rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

Annie Hall, the former high sheriff of Derbyshire, died after she was swept away by water on Friday in Darley Dale, near Matlock.

Mr Corbyn returned to south Yorkshire to meet families and volunteers on Tuesday afternoon where he is expected to announce plans for a new £5.6 billion fund to level up flood defences over 10 years.

Labour said this will be funded through its £250 billion Green Transformation Fund and prioritise "areas of need" such as the North West, Yorkshire an the East Midlands.

The party also said that Conservative spending on flood defences "overwhelmingly favours" the south east.

Downpours last week meant several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands were struck by a month's worth of rain in a single day.

Around half the 700 residents of Fishlake, near Doncaster, left the village and those who stayed behind have faced waist-high floods.

Visiting Fishlake today, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accused the Government of not taking it as seriously as it should.

She added: "It should be declaring a national emergency so they can open up the ability to apply to the EU for the emergency funds that are available at times of extreme floods. They are not yet doing that and they should be doing that."

She said the party's policy of spending £5 billion on flood defences was necessary, particularly as the climate emergency would make such events more common.

The Environment Agency (EA) said it had more than 200 staff on the ground in south Yorkshire supporting communities affected by the "devastating flooding".

Since the flooding began last Thursday, around 13,500 properties have been protected by flood defences, including nearly 5,000 in South Yorkshire, while flood storage areas are also being operated to protect 7,000 homes in parts of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, the EA added.

But it warned the flood risk remained high, with heavier bands of rainfall expected on Thursday and Friday.

Its flood duty manager Doug Wilson said teams were working around the clock to install temporary barriers and deliver sandbags to areas expecting further rainfall.

He added: "More heavy rain could bring further and severe surface water and river flooding to parts of South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire on Thursday and Friday.

"Areas of South Yorkshire will remain affected by ongoing high river levels today through to Saturday.

"Elsewhere, frequent showers today will fall on saturated river catchments across the Yorkshire Pennines, Peak District, Staffordshire and Derbyshire which could also bring more localised river flooding to these areas."

Five severe flood warnings from the Environment Agency remain in place around Doncaster, warning of a danger to life in the areas around the River Don at Bentley, Fishlake, Kirk Bramwith, South Bramwith and Willow Bridge Caravan Site.

Twenty-nine flood warnings are in place across the country, with 12 around the River Don.

The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings for rain in south Wales and parts of the south west on Wednesday and the Midlands, parts of Wales and the south east on Thursday.